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How educated should jurors be?

Posted Friday, August 31, 2007, at 8:21 AM

One respondent to my blog about medical issues Thursday questioned the practice of a hypothetical "guy who dropped out of school at 16" serving on juries deciding medical malpractice cases.

That brings up an interesting question. Should jurors be forced to meet minimal educational requirements, such as being a high school graduate or having earned a GED?

I can see that point, but tend to disagree to some extent.

Some people, especially older ones, were forced to drop out of school to support families. Some younger people have faced misfortune or made some mistakes and dropped out for whatever reason.

Often, wisdom and knowledge come with age (and some people seem to have been born with wisdom). You can be intelligent and wise without possessing a handful of diplomas. Sometimes common sense and education don't go hand in hand.

And democracy means everyone has a voice -- even the uneducated. Presumably the more educated jurors could convince the less educated one(s) of any errors of judgment during deliberations. Remember, the "guy who dropped out of school at 16" is just one member of the jury.

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-- Posted by snoopr1 on Mon, Sep 3, 2007, at 6:15 PM

I liked the OJ Simpson trial as an example....

Good one dc_0725, I never thought of it like that, til you brought it to my attention!

-- Posted by jesuslovesevery1 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 11:50 PM

Well since it was my comment that started this...

I hope no one actually construed the comment as a comment on anyone's character or actual intellect. BUT this particular issue (medical standard of care) is determined by jurors in a community. One would hope that everyone has the educational and critical thinking skills to separate the wheat from the chaff in a court case. Afterall, these folks will help determine how someone may be treated in a medical setting if all other factors are equal. Who do you want on that jury?

And for those who think that it makes no difference, here in Alabama there is one particular county that plantiff lawyers LOVE to have cases in. Greene county (and surrounding "Black Belt" counties) sees a disproportionate share of med mal cases given the small population. Why? This area has the lowest overall level of formal education in the state. And has the highest jury monetary verdicts. Think lawyers are dumb?

-- Posted by Tim Baker on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 10:53 PM

dc_0725 -Not to my Knowledge.


You are right lawyers do get to excuse a certain number of jurors..the problem is bigots do not see themselves as bigots, as a rule. So unless it comes out in questioning they aren't going to stand up and say they hate a certain group of people. There are people here in this town, that hate all black people for no reason other than they are black..but on the other hand there are many black people who hate all whites for no other reason except, they are white. Same goes for someone who is homophobic. Sometimes it is hard to spot a Bigot until it is too late.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 2:52 PM

Just out of pure curiosity....I am new to these blogs and most of the comments that I have read usually change to chld molestation and child rape. Do you guys have an over abundance of that in your county? or is that just a topic that some favor the most?

-- Posted by dc_0725 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 2:40 PM

Just like if I were on trial and I happened to be gay, I wouldn't want a member of the jury to be homophobic.

-- Posted by weezie84 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 2:05 PM

Yes weezie that would be safe to say.

If I were on trial for rape or child molestation and was innocent, I certainly wouldn't want a victim of either of these crimes on my jury, would you??

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 1:59 PM

Any prospective juror is asked a series of questions by the attorneys which are designed to detect any persons of prejudice, victims of a crime, or any other part of their character. Each attorney has a certain number of excuses and can excuse a juror for cause, and even for no reason at all. This is supposed to make the jury for each trial more "fair", but like any process, it can have flaws.

-- Posted by SoldierMom on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 1:52 PM

"I also don't think people that are homophobic should be on the jury of a person who is gay..regardless of the truth they will always see this person as guilty."-Dianatn

so would it be safe to say, that those who are victims of rapists and molesters shouldn't be on the jury either, because no matter what the circumstances, any defendant facing charges with molestation or rape (or both) will be seen through the eyes of the victim as guilty?

-- Posted by weezie84 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 1:26 PM

That should have been normal level OF intelligence

(so very sorry for the mistake, I shall go stand in the corner now)

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 1:11 PM

JMO I think a Jury needs to have a normal level if intelligence, They need to be able to understand and comprehend what is happening during the trial or they are worthless when it come down to the verdict.

I also don't think people that are homophobic should be on the jury of a person who is gay..regardless of the truth they will always see this person as guilty.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 1:07 PM

Well you can use the O.J. trial as an example of an uneducated jury. They didn't know enough to understand that his blood was found everywhere. Yes, he had a good defense team, but at some point a jury has to be smart enough to say "Wait, his blood was all over the scene and their blood was in his car, seems awful coincidental" If anyone I knew was a victim of a crime, I would like to think that the jury is smart enough to understand DNA and blood testing and plain and simple evidence. Which there was an overabundance of.

-- Posted by dc_0725 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 12:27 PM

Neither sides of my grandparents recieved over a 10th grade level education, but their morals to life (to me) are perfect; I have to agree with sambntn- a person knows right from wrong, it isn't something that is taught just through education.

-- Posted by weezie84 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 10:16 AM

It has been my experience that most attorneys could care less how smart or experienced their jurors are - it all boils down to how well the attorney can present his argument. Isn't that what a trial is? Two (or more) attorneys stand up there and argue with each other and the more likable they are, the more jurors they are able to sway to their point of view. It generally makes no difference what type of case it is. It all works the same.

By the way, I was under the impression that a new jury panel was supposed to be used periodically. I heard that the same guy served as foreman of the grand jury here in Bedford County for over 5 years. What's up with that?

-- Posted by SoldierMom on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 9:50 AM

Here is my thinking....levels of education aren't going to make a person weak or strong minded. Meaning, just because a person "dropped out" in the 6th grade doesn't mean you can convince them of something they know is wrong. It is the weak minded individuals that believe everything you feed them that need to be kept off juries, but how would you go about that?

-- Posted by sambntn on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 8:43 AM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.