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Summoned to Jury Duty

Written By: Jim Swanson  |  Posted: Saturday, October 1st, 2011

            Recently, I had the privilege of being a possible juror in a criminal case in our county. I choose the word "privilege" deliberately because trial by jury is an excellent system, in some ways superior to allowing a single judge (called a bench trial) or even a panel of judges. Though the judges may know the law better than the average citizen, they are not necessarily better equipped to determine a just verdict. Indeed, recently the Journal has made us aware of further violations of law by judges who take it on themselves to promote their own values.

            The word jury comes from an old French word meaning "sworn." The system of having common citizens judge cases goes back over 1000 years in England. It is similar to the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church. "If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church." (1 Cor. 6:4) Church matters of disagreement between members were to be determined by a group of common people in the church. This pattern is followed in the jury system.

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