When courts summon everyone who meets the minimum requirements for sitting on a jury – that they are county residents at least 18 years old and not convicted felons – there’s a potential of “diluting” jury pools, said Athens attorney Harry Gordon, who served as district attorney for Clarke and Oconee counties for nearly three decades.
“There’s a possibility (the new law) could open up jury service to every Tom, Dick and Harry, and that could diminish the validity of the jury system,” Gordon said. “If it liberalizes people that get on juries, it’s possible you could find more undesirable jurors, but it’s going to have to be tried because it’s the law, and we’ll just have to wait and see if it works more efficiently or not.”
Every Tom, Dick and Harry, aka law-abiding citizens who have every right to participate in the legal system. Or, to prosecutors, real peers of the defendant who have experienced the same bullshit tactics that police employ, who live in the neighborhoods and communities where crimes are committed, who may be better at holding the State to its high standard and who aren’t as predisposed to convict.
It’s well known that if we had a truly representative cross-section of the community sitting on juries, there’d be fewer convictions, not because “every Tom, Dick & Harry” is more likely to ignore the law, but because they’d be more likely to understand that not everything is black and white[.]
It’s obvious almost to the point of banality: broadening the pool of potential jurors beyond just registered voters will be good for human beings—for defendants in criminal cases, and for plaintiffs suing institutions in civil cases, and will bring more legitimacy to the justice system by increasing participation.
So what kind of lawyer thinks that “open[ing] up jury service to every Tom, Dick and Harry…could diminish the validity of the jury system”? A prosecutor, an insurance-defense lawyer, some throwdown fool whom the local paper interviews to make thoughtless statements beyond his ken (see, e.g. Miami lawyer David Weinstein in this article about a great win by my good friend and colleague Norm Silverman). Someone who doesn’t have actual clients of the sort who would benefit from a jury pool representative of the community (rather than of the community as he wished it to be), right?
Bizarre. Outrageous. Almost obscene.