Saturday, July 14, 2007

Feigning Objectivity

I must say that while I was saddened by watching the two attorneys at work last week, I appreciated the presiding judge. He was strict and direct, and didn't let anyone get away with much.

In the natural course of such matters, he asked if we had any reason that would prevent us from serving objectively, etc. Being Juror Number One, I mentioned that I had lost my aunt and a friend to drunk drivers. He looked at me straight in the eyes and asked, "Do you think you cannot think logically, and separate your personal loss from the facts that will be presented to you?" Of course I can think logically, and I told him so--and I added that I would try to be as objective as possible and not think of the people I loved and lost. "That's all I ask."

I must say, I don't strictly believe in objectivity. I think objectivity is nearly impossible to reach. We are the sum total of our beliefs, experiences and knowledge. We do not and cannot leave that knowledge behind when we encounter situations where we have to decide and take action. Perhaps relative objectivity is the best we can do with our limited capabilities. Which is why I think the idea of twelve people being trusted to be objective in deciding the guilt or innocence of someone is a pretty tall order.

Which brings me back to my thoughts on the whole justice system. It seems from my past experiences being eliminated from juries, as well as this occasion, all parties involved try to select people who know as little about anything as possible--similar unfortunately to how many people vote. This is how we end up with innocent people on death row, or even worse perhaps, languishing for years in jail and how guilty people walk free and write books about the crimes they have committed. If I were presented with truly technical information about certain things, there is no way I would be able to understand it; especially because jurors are forbidden to research the 'facts' that are presented to them. Which means the two sides must resort to bringing their 'experts' to educate twelve people in a short period of time. How objective can paid experts be? And how do those jurists separate conflicting expertise and make a decision that impacts the lives to so many people?

Again, I don't have an answer; nor do I think any other system is especially more just or fair than our current system. I just think our myth of justice is so strong, we have stopped thinking of ways to improve the models we have today.

Any thoughts from the philosophers in the peanut gallery?

1 comment:

PocaCosa said...

I don't have any answers either, but I do agree with you. In fact, I've been enjoying reading this and your subsequent posts, and the way you write really speaks to me. I'm going to go blog now. :-)

(Plus the one linked to here.) Take care, write often!