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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/777

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FORMS AND FAILURES OF THE LAW.

not that the last of a dozen or twenty trials is infallible." The long delays, extending sometimes through several generations, do more to impede justice and bring odium on law and lawyer than any right decision at the final end can neutralize. It has become, in the main, a contest of the longest purse, and that even-handed justice should suppress. And this would have happened long ago but for the lawyers.

The requirements of present laws which authorize the exclusion from juries of persons who may have formed an opinion of the case from newspaper reports is another absurdity. Few well-balanced men would be influenced in a verdict by what they had read or heard before the trial. In some cases it would assist them in the examination of witnesses, for that should be part of the duty of every intelligent juror. What is wanted of a juryman is not original ignorance of the case, but that cast of mind to give a verdict on the evidence presented on the trial—not as presented in the newspapers. To do otherwise is to restrict the choice of jurors to the most ignorant men instead of the most intelligent, and to that are undoubtedly due the many monstrous verdicts which disgrace our jurisprudence. Men who do not think, or read, or study, are exactly the sort of men to be led astray by glib-tongued lawyers, and made to forget the evidence and even to disregard the judge's cool analysis of it. It is difficult enough for twelve men of fair intelligence to reach a unanimous conclusion as trials are conducted; but for twelve ignorant men to do justice is plainly absurd. The fact is recognized among laymen, but lawyers are satisfied and ready to oppose change. The public see the wrong; but while the great majority of thinking people favor a thorough reform, there is in some minds a superstitious fear of attempting anything radical so long as eminent judges or lawyers stand aloof or shake their heads as if it were a sacrilege to uproot those hoary legal abuses and stupidities inherited from the feudal ages. Though bad enough, some of them argue that "we might get something worse," and one journalist goes so far as to claim that we should be satisfied with the legal status because courts of law are better, with all their imperfections, than to settle disputes by arms, as was the course under tribal and barbaric rule!

But besides reforming the jury system by broadening the field of selection and by accepting in many cases a verdict of two thirds or three fourths, it may be reformed also as to certain cases by dispensing with it entirely, at least in its present form. Why not have trained men for jurors as well as for judges? Why is it supposed that twelve men drawn at random, ignorant of law, and unused to weighing evidence, will reach a just decision better than one, three, or five men educated to and experienced in such work? If some sort of training and adaptation are necessary in most other pursuits, why are they not in the difficult work of dispensing justice? In certain cases