Transparency is an Asset to Improve the Jury Selection Process in Los Angeles Courts

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Transparency is an Asset to Improve the Jury Selection Process in Los Angeles Courts

May 30, 2018

Rachel Ettlinger | Student

Japanese citizens experienced their first-ever jury trial in which they could watch the proceedings unfold before their own eyes; in nineteenth-century England, using a jury was belittled as the English accused using peers of not being professional enough to hand down an appropriate verdict; today, in the United States, potential jurors will do whatever they can to get out of performing their civic duty of serving as a juror.

Globally the process of serving on a jury is seen as a privilege; so much so that in Japan individuals lined up around the block to attend the first-ever jury proceedings. In the U.S. jurors are underpaid for their services; however, courtrooms have improved since the 1990s, where a study of the New York court system found that courtroom officials, including judges, court officers, clerks, and lawyers, were rude and unwelcoming to the public and potential and serving jurors. During my courtroom visit, I found that those who worked in the court were more than welcoming and kind, and even assisted me and those in my group in finding a court proceeding that would benefit us and our project most.

While observing the jury selection for a Driving while Under the Influence trial, Judge Tamara Hall asked a series of concise questions to each of the jurors and waited for an appropriate response or for any follow-up questions. This process, albeit necessary to the overall jury selection, was significantly time-consuming. There were several jurors who made their bias against drinking and operating machinery blatantly obvious, but the judge kept the juror in the box despite it being glaring that this juror would not be able to serve to the best of their abilities because of specific life experiences that happened to them or someone they were close to. As a journalist, 1 would have dismissed those jurors right away because they stated clearly their bias would prevent them from being able to serve their civic duty. These particular jurors, about three to be exact, would better serve their civic duty on another jury trial where their biases would not hinder a decision.

If a source for an article showed a blatant bias and agenda in an interview, I would have to think twice and most likely leave that source out of my article because I am not reporting on that person's agenda, I am reporting on a newsworthy event or topic that may or may not pertain to that person's views. If they are looking for a platform to spread their ideas, that source is more than welcome to pen an opinion editorial for a publication as an outlet. However, the overall jury process was concise, straight to the point, and left little room for any nonsense from jurors who flat-out did not want to serve jury duty whether at that specific time or at all.

Rachel Ettlinger, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response being asked how her major, IMC, could improve the trial process.

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