Creating a Seamless Transition From Jury Box to Jury Room for More Effective Decision Making
Why am I writing here? I am not a judge or lawyer, and I may never be. I don’t even play one on TV. In searching for an answer to this question, it came to mind that at sometime in everyone’s life, there is a need to enter the court system-as a victim, offender, witness, court staff or juror. The interactions among these persons impact the effective administration of justice in our court system. Every two years for the past eighteen years (like the tick of a clock), I am summoned to jury duty at either the District of Columbia Superior Court or the District Court for the District of Columbia. Both court systems use the same jury wheel. Presently only two source lists are used-voter registrations and driver license records-but a juror can serve no more frequently than every two years. I have been an active juror on six to nine trials that I remember well; these trials lasted from a few hours to about ten days. These experiences have prompted me to spend the time and energy required to reform and improve the jury system.
Until recently, very little was known about what goes on behind the closed door of the jury room. It is in the jury room that twelve people must come to a decision that impacts the property, life or liberty of one or more persons. How do these twelve persons proceed? How can the public be more confident that they make as fair a decision as possible? Reaching a verdict should be the result of a seamless transition from the jury box to the jury room. Several proposals are being made for reform toward that end.