Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/387

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375
A MEDICAL STUDY OF THE JURY SYSTEM.

A MEDICAL STUDY OF THE JURY SYSTEM.
By T. D. CROTHERS, M. D.

THE uncertainty of jurors, and the capricious, whimsical character of their verdicts, are accepted as inevitable, and explained as part of the natural weakness of the mind. It is assumed that, if the facts are clearly presented, a jury will give a common-sense verdict, which will approximate the truth and human justice. Where they fail, it is due to the confusion of testimony, the misrepresentation of counsel, and the general perversion of facts. Many thoughtful men consider the judgment of twelve men, who are disinterested, superior and on general matters of dispute of far more reliable character than the judgment of one trained man. Yet literally, the verdicts of twelve men, based on the same set of facts, differ widely, and can never be anticipated; and, whether wise or unwise, are clearly due to other influences than the commonly supposed conflict of facts and motives of truth and justice.

While it would be difficult to doubt the motive and intent of the average juror to be just and fair in his conclusions, it would seem that certain conditions and surroundings make it impossible in most cases to either understand the case in question or the principles of equity involved. The theoretical and ideal jury to whom are daily referred questions of life and death, and often momentous interests concerning families and individuals, is never seen in real life. The delusions of the court room, that the twelve men set apart for this duty are endowed with a large and sufficient mental capacity for the discernment of justice, is far from being true in reality.

From a medical and scientific point of view, the average twelve men who are appealed to by the counsel and judge to wisely determine the issue of a case are usually incompetent naturally, and are generally placed in the worst possible conditions and surroundings to even exercise average common sense in any disputed case.

In a noted trial at Hartford, Conn., out of a panel of one hundred jurors, twelve men were finally selected after a long, searching inquiry. Five of them were farmers, who worked hard every day in the open air, men who were unaccustomed to think or reason, except in a narrow way along their surroundings and line of work. These men all swore that they had not read any details of the case, although it occupied a large share of public attention and had been discussed freely in all the papers. They were muscle workers, with but little mental exercise, living c n coarse, healthy food, and sleeping from early evening to early