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We need to train fresh eyes and new design thinking on our jury system. I just spent a second day on jury duty and the process of jury selection—voir dire—doesn’t work. It is supposed to produce a jury able to decide the facts of a case but it is so twisted and broken that it often doesn’t.
It’s as if you were dropped into a strange game with rules you couldn’t fathom. The main players in the game—the judge, the defense attorneys and the prosecutor— know the rules but you don’t. So defense attorneys make up strange and confusing stories and ask potential jurors “could you accept that?” You get the notion that they are testing you but you don’t know why or what for. Ditto for the prosecutor.
The whole process is alienating. Citizens are herded into a room to play a game with rules they don’t understand and can’t change. This is not acceptable.
Applying design thinking to the jury process—to the entire trial process— would greatly improve our democracy and integrate citizens back into what is supposed to be THEIR system of justice.
The best analysis of the decline of the jury system—and how it is gamed—is by my boss, Steve Adler, editor and chief of Business Week, who wrote The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom, back in 1994. When I told him I was going on jury duty, he loaned me a copy. It’s a good read and his recommendations about improving jury selection are right on.
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