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April 16, 2012

By: Joel Cohen

Juries are not composed of professional jurors, and that's a good thing. We once had "blue ribbon" grand juries composed of prominent, typically well-educated, citizens who would investigate, for example, civic corruption -- that is, until the packages contained within those ribbons were determined to violate the right of a defendant to have a jury of one's peers. Turns out, juries consisting only of educated, white males aren't considered a "fair" and "representative" cross-section of the community.  

All juries -- grand and trial -- are now selected randomly and in a manner intended to ensure a mixed composition of citizens off the street. The system takes pains to avoid improper exclusions or inclusions, so that we don't end up with jurors being drawn from limited walks of life. We can debate whether we have truly solved that problem, or whether perhaps the pendulum has swung the other way, where prominent, well-educated citizens seem to find their way out of jury duty more often than some. We're looking at you, lawyers.

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