On Justice and Trial by Jury

“The humorist who invented trial by jury played a colossal practical joke upon the world, but since we have the system we ought to try and respect it. A thing which is not thoroughly easy to do, when we reflect that by command of the law a criminal juror must be an intellectual vacuum, attached to a melting heart and perfectly macaronian bowels of compassion.”
-Mark Twain, New York Tribune, March 1873

That it must be some enormous practical joke is never more obvious than for the juror, sitting amongst eleven strangers – suddenly compatriots in judgement – charged with directing how a blindfolded Lady Justice is to play her hand. It gives reason to doubt that justice is even possible.

But it is in the deliberation room where the inadequacy of trial by jury really sinks in. Just as it also dawns that it is best means of justice yet devised – no matter how flawed.

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