Trial by jury. This is the latest dish on the dinner plate of the Philippine Judicial system. And although it has an enormous amount of legal merit. Is a controversial subject, to say the least.
To ask 12 Filipino’s to sit patiently in a box for anywhere from a few hours, to possibly days, weeks, even months on end. Is a nightmare waiting to happen. Especially for the poor bastard facing some flavor of conviction or acquittal.
Before I continue, let us first examine the basics of a Jury Trial:
A jury trial or trial by jury is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact, which then direct the actions of a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions.
Jury trials are used in a significant share of serious criminal cases in almost all common law legal systems, and juries or lay judges have been incorporated into the legal systems of many civil law countries for criminal cases. Only the United States and Canada make routine use of jury trials in a wide variety of non-criminal cases. Other common law legal jurisdictions use jury trials only in a very select class of cases that make up a tiny share of the overall civil docket (e.g. defamation suits in England and Wales), while true civil jury trials are almost entirely absent elsewhere in the world. Some civil law jurisdictions do, however, have arbitration panels where non-legally trained members decide cases in select subject-matter areas relevant to the arbitration panel members’ areas of expertise.
Now that we have a better idea of just what it is the Philippine Judicial system, and the average Filipino are about to get themselves into. It is in this writers humble opinion that the very notion of a trial by jury, at present, would not succeed.
At least, not until it has been tested under fire.
To do so, the jury trial concept should first be introduced in the form of faux or mock trials, using real juror’s chosen at random. In this manner, the judicial system will be able to determine first hand, if the concept can eventually become a reality. The trials can either be scripted, or come from existing, predetermined cases. With the sole purpose being to spot the following:
- Attention span of each juror, based on signs of boredom or disinterest.
- Do any members of the jury seem more focused on their status as a juror, rather than the case.
- Does judgement appear to have been passed prior to the actual start of trial.
- Each juror’s ability to truly understand and absorb the contents of the trial itself.
- Does the final verdict appear to be driven by either honesty, vindictiveness or rumor.
While not pretending to be a hot shot attorney, I am certain there are a number of other areas I may have overlooked. But most important is the fact that the average Filipino just might not be ready to be yanked away from their oh-so-precious jobs, just to sit in that box with 11 other strangers. Absorb the magnitude of the case, and what ever else may be expected of him or her. And to then be tossed into a private room with those 11 strangers, so as to deliberate and/or argue the cases final outcome, before passing final judgement on that poor bastard.
From my personal perspective. And having lived here for 10 years now. I can say in all honesty. I would not want to be that poor bastard sitting in the defendants chair.
Having said as much, I now refer you to the movie, 12 Angry Men, so you can judge for yourself, if a trial by jury is truly something the Philippines is ready for?