Photo Credit: Jewish Press

About a half million people a year in New York State alone are subjected to jury duty. To many of them it’s everything from gross inconvenience to physical hardship to emotional torment. A voluntary jury system would do just as well as, if not better than, a mandatory jury system.

We have a robust military despite the fact that it’s voluntary. Why does anyone think people would not apply for jury duty if it were voluntary?

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We give lip service to the notion of giving a person accused of a crime a fair trial. But the current jury system is anything but fair. Does anyone know how many jurors on a given case are actually paying attention to the court proceedings? Take for example someone who’s going through a bad divorce. He’s worried about losing his kids, losing his house, dealing with lawyers, etc. If he sits on a jury, what on earth do you think he’ll be thinking about? The case in front of him?

Then there are people with all sorts of ailments – chronic headaches, backaches, abdominal distress, muscle cramps, knee pain, etc. – that are not severe enough to incapacitate them yet intense enough to make their lives miserable. They must also serve on jury duty. Such maladies can sometimes be disturbing enough to keep people from focusing on simple, everyday chores. They’re going to sit on a jury and pay attention to what’s going on?

It’s not only adversities that interfere with one’s ability to focus on extraneous matters. People who run a business, for example, are plucked out of their lives and told, in effect, to stop thinking of their business and focus on a trial. Really? People can actually redirect their thoughts that easily?

Isn’t it logical to assume that a juror who actually requested to serve would be more inclined to pay attention to a court proceeding than a juror who is being forced to appear?

Why are we forcing people into mandatory jury duty, which is nothing but an irritant to many and a gross injustice to those whose lives might literally depend on the votes of jurors who are physically in the courtroom but mentally elsewhere?

The mandatory jury system should be abolished. A voluntary jury system would be a win-win situation. The general public would be happier with it and people on trial would stand a better chance at getting a just verdict.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

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