Colorado lawyer and civil rights advocate Paul Grant defends the recent actions of a jury that caused a retrial in a murder case. In a letter to the Rocky Mountain News:
Jurors seeking information should not be viewed as a problem ("Rule-breaking jurors prompt new slaying trial for woman," Jan. 31 and the On Point editorial of Feb. 3, "Witless juries"). It is unavoidable and to be welcomed; it is responsible, not irresponsible behavior.
It used to be (when the Bill of Rights guarantee of jury trials was adopted) that jurors were expected to know something about the case and the surrounding facts and circumstances before they were selected. That's why jury trials are required (in most instances) to be held in the district where the crime allegedly occurred. It used to be common, and not a problem, for jurors to know some or all of the parties to the case.
When today's jurors seek information, they are responsibly seeking to get enough to do their job, i.e., try the case, correctly. A fair and honest trial by jury requires an informed jury. Efforts to keep them ignorant and subject to the controlled information flow from the judge and attorneys show major disrespect for the role of the jury.
And the battle against information is a futile one, anyway. Jurors always have important knowledge and experience they bring with them into deliberations; knowledge and experience that often escapes the awareness - hence the control - of the judge and attorneys. The Internet is going to take us a long way towards setting us free from controlled jury ignorance.
Judges and lawyers need to get used to it.
The editorial he cites can be found here. Well done, as usual, Paul.