General Question

soethe6's avatar

What if I promise to serve upon but screw up a jury?

Asked by soethe6 (537points) August 20th, 2007

OK so basically I'm an anarchist. I believe in destabilizing the socio-political system instead of, say, (a) voting for change or (b) engaging in some ridiculous liberal half-measure. But..

But what if I get called for jury duty? I mean let's say a trial for stealing or whatever. I'd love to be completely honest with the lawyers and the judge and whatnot while I'm being questioned about my suitability for the trial. Also, like everybody else, I'd love to get out of jury duty...but that's secondary. So clearly if I said, like a normal citizen, to the judge, "Look, I refuse to work on this jury. I'm too busy with work."...well, then I'd be fined for contempt of court or whatever...for failing to do my duty as a citizen. But what if I say to the judge "I am happy to take the time to do my duty as a citizen. But I feel the my duty as a citizen is to refuse under any circumstances to convict the accused."? Or what if I say, like a real anarchist, "I vow to do my duty as a citizen by staying on this jury and then by voting contrary to the rest of the jury's consensus."? I mean, as an anarchist, I am in this country entitled to express my views and to do everything legal to actualize them, including voting on a jury. So what does a judge do with such a threat? And this isn't that crazy an idea. For example, what if I'm called up on a drug-possession case? There are plenty of non-anarchists who are completely against the drug war...who think that drugs should be legal or that anti-drug prosecution is crazy. So what if I simply say "I don't care what this person was selling and I don't care what the law is because I'm against the drug war; I will under no circumstances convict."? What happens then? Clearly I can't be held in contempt, since I'm happy to serve in good faith on the jury...but at the same time I'm being forthright about the fact that I have a problem with the law generally and will do everything I can, as a juror, to fight it. Thoughts?

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29 Answers

archer's avatar

my thought is that you're an idiot.

justice for the anarchist is that they get what they hope for. problem with that though is that the sane would suffer.

glial's avatar

Why would you bother showing up, if you are an anarchist?

Hawaiiguy's avatar

Luckily we have built a system to deal with situations like this, do you think your the first anarchist to sit on a jury? Dont flatter yourself, better yet do something original...

soethe6's avatar

OK, again, maybe that preface was not necessary. Thanks for the responses so far, but so far you both don't seem to know what intelligent anarchism is about...nor have you come near providing an answer.

To archer: I don't care if you think I'm an idiot. And no, anarchists don't get what they hope for. In developed western societies, anarchists get what they hope for only every couple hundred years maybe, and even then only for a few hours. So do you research before you start acting like you know what you're talking about. Try answering the question. And yes, the sane suffer. I am among them. I suffer. Don't you?

To glial, a slightly more intelligent question: anarchists aren't necessarily selfless. In fact I'm VERY socio-politically selfish. Again, from a practical standpoint, please just answer the question.

Hawaiiguy: Is the system built to deal with situations like this? How so? I'm not even sitting on a jury right now, and I never claimed to be in some way unique. Again, I'd love it if you tried answering the question instead of over-reacting to my political position.

OK, one more time people: what does the judge actually do in this situation? Clearly I wouldn't get fined or arrested for my political views but...

Maybe it would help if you three thought of this strictly in terms of the drug war. Forget that I'm an anarchist for the moment. Just pretend that I'm a liberal who is very, very against anti-drug legislation and prosecution. And say I get on a jury and say, "Yes, I'd be happy to serve as a citizen on this jury, but under no circumstances, no matter what happens will I convict." What then? Clearly not a fair trial, so what does the judge do? And to make matters worse, what if I say that whatever happens I will intentionally hang the jury, because I as a citizen have a problem with the legal process?

Again, thanks for your responses, but you really haven't answered my question. Instead you've given me your thoughts on anarchism, which you clearly know very little about. And frankly I don't care what you think about my political views, nor should you care what I think about yours. I just would love to have an actual, intelligent answer to this question.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

He replaces you with an alternate, case dismissed!

Hawaiiguy's avatar

Let's see how much of an anarchist you actually are... A man is accused of manufacturing meth, in the raid he shoots an officer and kills him leaving his 6 year old daughter parentless because his wife was killed by a drink driver, the man is also accused of endangering his 4 children as they were found malnourished and there were signs of phyiscal and sexual
abuse, what would you do?

archer's avatar

"intelligent anarchism", now there's a perfect oxymoron. like children playing carefree the strutting anarchist is entirely dependent on the organized culture and structure created and maintained by adults.

mzgator's avatar

First of all....if you were called to jury duty and decided to show up, you would take part in the voir dire process which is when both the state district attorney and the defendent's attorney each get to question you. If you answered the questions honestly, you would most certainly be disqualified for jury duty. Jury selection, especially in big cases, is a very big deal to both attorneys. Neither side would want someone like you with your views on their jury. Of course, a judge would be present in court, but the attorneys would have the first option of getting rid of you as a prespective juror. In big profile cases, attorneys hire jury selection experts who would analize your answers, appearance and behavior from the minute they saw you in the jury pool.

Now this is my personal opinion. I often have found that people, such as yourself, often "buck the system" of what is considered normal behavior in society to get attention for themselves. Are you not capable of receiving the attention you crave by following the law and generally supporting things which are considered normal and fair?I mean no disrespect to you personally. I understand standing up for what you do not believe in..that is the American way, but to generally state that as an individual you have chosen to be against everything boggles my mind. I understand that as an anarchist your hope is for a civilized society free from law and government intervention. In today's world, we need laws. Laws are in place to protect us and civilize us. The legal system has checks and balances in place to keep people with your views off of a jury. A jury should be composed of the defendent's peers. Most people are not anarchists. If I were facing a charge in court and had a jury to decide my punishment, I would want open minded individuals who would at least give me a fighting chance. You mention that you would never find an organized drug dealer guilty....what about if it was a person who had a different sort of views than you? What about if it was a politician that you did not agree with his views...and the question came upon the jury as to whether he was innocent or guilty. While the jury was deliberating, would you just automatically vote guilty every time because he was a politician or of some other profession you did not agree with, just as you said you would vote not guilty for a drug dealer because you believe drugs should be legal?

We are fortunate to be Americans and have the choice to be whatever and think whatever. I am just happy that we have that system I spoke of earlier of checks and balances to keep people who don't have an open mind and are obviously set in their beliefs from being on a jury. As I said, nothing personal....just my opinion.

glial's avatar

To answer your question, from a practical standpoint as you asked: Just grow up.

gooch's avatar

If you are for real an anarchist then you would not even show up for jury duty. The result of that would be more than likely a bench warrent for your arrest. Then you could really say you are an anarchist. If you choose to show up and still have the same rebelous ideas then you are just a scared want to be useless person in society.

soethe6's avatar

Thanks to some of you for your answers. Especially mzgator: your response is well thought and makes a lot of sense. I would likely be eliminated in voir dire, and that would be the end of that. You also ask some very worthwhile questions about my beliefs, and I hope I can explain myself so that I don't look entirely insane or incoherent.

More generally, because of the unsolicited hostility I've gotten in two thirds of these responses, I feel obligated to clarify myself somewhat. Unfortunately, I've got to be somewhere, so I'll have to write more early this afternoon. Until then, thanks mzgator. I should have thought of voir dire. But is voir dire really a substantial process even in a minor jury trial? Like, say, a shoplifting case that the DA feels is a slam dunk?

OK, more later.

mzgator's avatar

@soethe6: A minor case or misdemeanor probably would not go to least here. The district attorney would try to settle the case through plea bargaining before ever going to court and facing a jury.

Your welcome for thanking me on my response. I try never to judge someone on their beliefs as a person. I do, however, like to get my point across too. Getting your point across does not have to become hostile.

Poser's avatar

I'm always amazed by the sentiment of average--even intelligent--individuals when I start telling them of my anarchist views. I've generally stopped referring to myself as an anarchist for this reason, though I haven't changed my views. I now call myself an anarcho-capitalist.

Also, I don't like to be lumped into the same group as the violent socialist movement that calls itself anarchist. True anarchy is the closest ideology to that voiced in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the true ideals of America.

sfgal's avatar

Hi Soethe6, I think this is a good question and frankly I'm disappointed by the other folks here who have been disrespectful. I think your best bet is to just tell the counsel that you are an anarchist and don't believe in prisons. That statement alone will cause the prosecution to reject you from the jury during the voir dire process.

hossman's avatar

Let me get this straight, you consider it a valid option to sit on a jury and tamper with the jury and the judicial process? You would deliberately manipulate the legal rights of other people, in a criminal trial, including a deprivation of their personal liberty, simply to selfishly satisfy your own "philosophy." You better disclose that up front. Because if I'm a judge, and I discover you did this, we start with my incarcerating you under my own authority for 364 days. I then contact the appropriate prosecutor to see what we can do to convict you of an additional crime and put you away for longer.

Anarchists are so brave while it's a theory. They rely, as another poster suggested, on the protections of society so they can pose as some sort of brave rebel. Tell you what, anarchist, put your money where your mouth is, and move to an anarchistic society, where you can truly express yourself freely. I might suggest Somalia. Or you could just disclose to us your name and address, and as an anarchist, you wouldn't mind if we come over and relieve you of your assets. You wouldn't have a problem with that, would you?
As for the assertion anarchy was an ideal of the Founding Fathers? I challenge you to quote any text of our Founding Fathers consistent with anarchy.

hossman's avatar

In a more general sense, any juror who has a philosophical objection to applying the law to the facts has an obligation to disclose that in voir dire. You are mistaken if you believe a jury has the right to use the jury process to express their own beliefs. That would deny the parties the right to a fair jury. The obligation of the jury is to apply the law, AS IT IS AND NOT AS YOU WISH IT TO BE, to the facts to determine if one of the parties has established their burden of proof. In a sense, you are functioning not as an individual, but as a representative of the society. If you feel you cannot fulfill that function due to your personal beliefs, you have an obligation to disclose that to the Court.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

I really would like to know what an anarchist would do if they were presented with my earlier post, the meth case? I know I've considered myself to be a anarchist at times especially when I was younger, but I kept finding myself caught in the trap. Supporting corporations I didn't believe in ie soap companies, computer companies, software games, gas companies, electric companies, landlord, upper management, water companies etc. etc.. In this age of everything it was impossible to really be an anarchist, short of living in a commune and being collectively self sufficient.

hossman's avatar

@Hawaiiguy: it IS really tough to live in an advanced society and not be forced to do business with those you would prefer not to. For instance, although I see and accept the value and need of insurance, I have sufficient legal experience with insurance companies that, in my experience, I believe most insurance companies do their best to avoid paying what they know to be legitimate claims. I would prefer not to do business with them. But I must drive to work, I own a home, thus insurance is unavoidable. I wonder how much frustration this is for wealthy liberals. After all, Mr. Edwards believes I should pay more in taxes, I should do more to cure poverty, but I certainly don't pay as much for my suits and haircuts as he does. Maybe he should lead by example. But I have found I understand the other side more often. As a former business owner, I have a better understanding of what I formerly would have viewed as the Dark Side. Many businesses are simply trying to make an honest buck, create a quality product or service, and create jobs. My parents were small-scale landlords, and unfortunately were far too generous and thus frequently victims of bad tenants. Many times what we label as evil is just misunderstood. I have no problems with anarchy. I have an anarchist streak myself. I would love to build that cabin in the middle of nowhere and reject society while it collapses around itself. (Now that I think about it, I guess I'm not an anarchist. I'm not actively seeking to bring down society, I just would like to not have to deal with it). My objection is to those people of all stripes, anarchists or just the apathetic, who complain about our society, but are either part of the problem or do nothing to improve it or escape it. Hey, I agree, much of what is America sucks. I still don't know of another country that significantly improves on it. If you don't like it, work to fix it, or leave it, or shut up about it. We all have the right to complain, but we also have the right to complain about those who do nothing but complain.

soethe6's avatar

Well, this question clearly has gotten beyond me, but I may as well clarify my own position:

I am not an anarchist in the sense of someone advocating any prolonged state of violent lawlessness. Clearly we all need laws and social order in order to be secure in our happy living. But (big but) I do believe that radical socio-political revolution is the only path to significant political change. E.g., our two parties are two sides of the same coin, and only by revolutionary practice can real change come about. The whole idea being to destabilize the socio-political order enough that we expand the coordinates of the politically possible, so that we move into a political terrain that literally was unthinkable before the revolutionary moment. Destabilization, often violent, is in my view the only path to a revolutionary moment (which, again, is itself the only path to significant political change). So sorry: no pain, no gain. Yes, people get hurt and lose property and die during revolutions, but that's just how it goes.

That does NOT mean that I am under any obligation to WANT to make such sacrifices personally. I can, without contradicting myself, desire a radical socio-political destabilization that nonetheless does not deprive me personally of life or even property. So to answer everybody claiming that a "real" anarchist would simply not show up for jury duty: nope. I don't want to get fined or arrested--even though I'm an anarchist--so I will show up to do my duty. But my duty is to provide a good-faith view of what I as a peer of the accused feel is right, based upon my interpretation of the law. It just so happens that my good-faith interpretation of the law is radically contrary, hence the quandary. I hope that clarifies: an anarchist can still be selfish, and that's why I show up.

Hawaiiguy: your meth question doesn't seem tough at all. Give the guy a medal for shooting a cop if you want. Or don't. Take his kids away if you want. Or don't. But to be more clear about it: your feeling of self-contradiction is perfectly warranted. It's taken me a long time to work through this, but my current feeling is that, well, we are all self-contradictory, so why worry about it. For example, even to regard oneself as an individual person on a day-to-day basis, we have to step back, as if in a mirror, and think of ourselves in the third person, as objects in the world. But at the same time, to act and live is to experience life in the first person, without even the mediation of an "I." Hence, there's not an "I feel tired" in my soul. I simply and immediately feel tired. But the moment I think of such tiredness I split myself by creating a self-objective "I" that is tired. So that's a fundamental form of self-contradiction that every single person enacts every day. Political thought should be no different in my view. If I'm hypocritical, paradoxical, contradictory even in my most basic forms of day-to-day thought, then I refuse this demand to be coherent and consistent in my political thought. That's why I'm allowed to be an anarchist but also to desire protection from thieves, or to be a communist but to also want to keep all my stuff. It's not that these aren't contradictions: it's that the basic human state is contradictory in many, many ways, so what's the problem? So indulge yourself a little: buy from the corporate man, but ALSO be anti-corporate. In any case it beats a life of guilt in which you can't have your cake OR eat it.

And again, these practical quesitons (the meth situation, etc.) are non-questions in relation to my particular beliefs because I support not sustained anarchy (which itself seems contradictory), but only a brief moment of total disorder. After that, the social-political world is destabilized enough that genuine revolutionary political change can take place, and then we start building a stable society again...but one conceived upon drastically different coordinates. The purpose of advocating anarchism is simply to provide a durable path to such an ends. The question of how to sustain an anarchic state of affairs is difficult but of zero concern to me.

So, to respond to the very first post: what I "hope for" as an anarchist is not, strictly speaking, sustained anarchy. I mean, even a moment of global disorder will be hell to go through, I'm sure. What I "hope for" is that such destabilization will lead to a drastically new vocabulary for the socially and politically possible...which is something that I think a lot of people would appreciate. It's just that most aren't realistic enough to realize that you've got to break some eggs in the process. (Again, though, hopefully not MY eggs.)

Mzgator, I hope that this answers some of your questions too. Maybe I should have clarified sooner. So, no, I'm not "against everything." I do believe that social order (flawed though it is)--laws, cops, taxes, due process--should exist. I simply am very dissatisified with their current form, and I believe that advocating an anarchic *moment* is a good path towards genuine change. So to answer the question about refusing to convict a corrupt politician, say, instead of refusing to convict a drug dealer: my goal as a juror would simply be to screw up the legal process as much as possible. Probably that would mean voting against the majority of the jury, whatever that majority happened to be. I would basically be completely unconcerned with who the accused is and what he may have done: the point here is to register my non-confidence with the system itself, as it currently stands, and thereby to help facilitate its collapse and subsequent rebuilding.

Hossman: yes, I would willingly curtail someone else's "rights" to satisfy my philosophy. Because I believe that the system of so-called "rights" as it is currently articulated is a bunch of hogwash anyway...just a load of rhetoric meant to make us like it when the government toys with us. And YES, anarchists and most others are "brave when it's in theory" but maybe not so much in practice. THAT is why theory is very, very important. So many people forget this: the strictly theoretical provides us with a space where we can think bravely without risking life and limb. If every thought experiment had to be actualized, we would all be a lot more timid about what we thought. And that timidness would have deprived us of many of the greatest discoveries, etc. in human history.

Hossman, you are right though to point out that the ostensible function of a juror is simply to evaluate burden of proof vis-a-vis the law as it stands. Personal beliefs should not, in theory, come into play in the first place. I would simply have to state in voir dire that I cannot or will not provide such an interpretive service. I wonder if the way in which I made such a statement (e.g., "I cannot be objective because I fundamentally object to the process." VS "I refuse to cooperate.") would impact whether or not the judge chose to hold me in contempt.

OK, that's all I can manage. Hope this clarifies. I'm glad I managed to start a heated debate, if nothing else. Too bad the level heads didn't prevail at first. Thanks to Poser and sfgal for the notes of support.

hossman's avatar

So then, soethe6, would your level of acceptance of your own hypocrisy include, say, someone like me adopting your own philosophy and subjugating your "rights," or since you belittle that concept, your desires, to my own? Do you find that acceptable? Or is your philosophy so self-centered that only you are permitted this sort of action? In which case, although your outlook may include self-awareness, there is no overall net value to society in that self-awareness, and society's best interest would lie in eliminating you, since there are no "rights," as a non-productive waste of resources. Not trying to be hostile here, but it is a logical extension of your argument. If you are antithetical to a stable society, permit hypocrisy and deny "rights," then clearly society's best interest lies in removing you, and you simply survive due to the inaction or lack of awareness of those around you.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

soethe6, in regards to the meth? Your answer was quite on the fence, some conviction was what I was looking for to see what you would do if you were put on a jury and had to decide one way or the other if the facts were clear on the persons guilt. Would you convict him and serve the community? Would you set him free to uphold your beliefs? Or would you adjust your beliefs depending on the case the court had you assigned?

Mangus's avatar

1)I think your posturing regarding participation in a jury is misplaced. You are implicated in a thousand attrocities daily, if you want to connect the dots between your material existence in this country and the suffering of others, both here and abroad. Avoiding or sabotaging the jury process will not maintain any moral or political purity on your part. You will not escape complicity You would do better to participate, if in your own way, in the process in a way that contributes to the most just outcome for your community. The simple example goes like this: If I think the justice system is overwhelmingly racist in its effect, I might refuse to participate in the trial of a young black man, knowing, as I do, the statistical odds against him. But that would only give me a feeling of absolution, it would do NOTHING for the defendant. If I truly care about him and the future he faces, I will participate, risk the fact and feelings of complicity, and do my best to help the most just outcome possible result from the trial.

2) If you get the chance to participate in a jury, you might be delighted to find that it is one of the most participatory and democratic spaces available to us today. Apart from the overriding rubric, it is one of the most serious “consensus” situations I have ever encountered. You have real people’s lives and futures riding on your work on the jury. If you don’t try, someone else will fill your seat. How can you not try to contribute to a just outcome?

hossman's avatar

Excellent response by Mangus. Logical, concise and most of all, completely CORRECT. Well said.

unacornea's avatar

soeth, i would consider myself an anarchist and i basically don’t agree with anything you have said. all of the anarchists i have known believe in action of some kind or another… you say you believe in a revolution, a “moment of anarchy” – what is actually happening in the world right now, a global collapse… so what is your role? i guess we all make that choice for ourselves. it’s true we all have to participate in this system, we all make compromises, but we have the option of aligning with others who don’t want to be controlled, who are sensitive and strong and want options. i don’t really see this question as having anything to do with actual people or desired outcomes, its just speculation…which is fine. i just don’t identify with it. i guess that shows how flimsy our words are. anarchists i know work themselves crazy on top of their actual jobs.. they’re also publishing magazines, developing new organizing structures, growing food, raising kids, working their asses off to try to create options, to ensure people’s survival. i am curious now to know how many people i know have served on a jury. i have never been called so i haven’t thought about it too much.

xyzzy's avatar

Like Mangus said, serving on a jury might be a good thing. Don’t be so quick to avoid it.

tonedef's avatar

It sounded like being punished for contempt was something you’d want to avoid, but I believe in every jurisdiction, the jury pool in voir dire is sworn in. I would assume that the judge would ask of all participants if they hold any biases that would make them unfit to sit on the jury. I would think that failing to disclose that you planned on sabotaging the trial and then doing so would carry, at the very least, charges of perjury. But, IANAL.

Addendum: here is an example voir dire, just to get a sense of what you’d have to answer.

deaddolly's avatar

I don’t think after they question you, you’ll ever have to worry about serving on a jury. They will eliminate you for many different reasons. I worked in the marketing department of an insurance company (one that sold health and life) and was disqualified from a jury because of it. it was a case about a city bus hitting a car.

If you do get called to serve – you’ll learn some things. Which would be a good thing.

sundayBastard's avatar

@soethe6 I’m also an Anarchist and I will just leave it at that. If I were to truly say what was on my mind right now or ever. The mind police..Uh?..hum…I mean the moderators would be on my ass so fast and I am already treading on thin ice. LOL

Anarchy must be eaten slowly by the small mind or it will surely choke.

talljasperman's avatar

Just tell the court that you are an anarchist and they will disqualify you as a juror.

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