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eBook We, The Jury: The Jury System And The Idea Of Democracy download
Author: Jeffrey B. Abramson
ISBN: 0465091164
Subcategory: Politics & Government
Pages 336 pages
Publisher Basic Books (October 19, 1995)
Language English
Category: Politics
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 218
ePUB size: 1980 kb
FB2 size: 1577 kb
DJVU size: 1358 kb
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eBook We, The Jury: The Jury System And The Idea Of Democracy download

by Jeffrey B. Abramson

Anyone tempted to ridicule juries. Abramson has faith in juries because they are a form of democratic justice.

Anyone tempted to ridicule juries. He describes in fascinating detail how democracy in America has developed over the years in tandem with the jury system.

This magisterial book explores fascinating cases from American history to show how juries remain the heart of our system of criminal justice - and an essential element of our democracy. No other institution of government rivals the jury in placing power so directly in the hands of citizens. Jeffrey Abramson draws upon his own background as both a lawyer and a political theorist to capture the full democratic drama that is the jury.

We, the Jury is a rare work of scholarship that brings the history of the jury alive and shows the origins of. .A former assistant district attorney, Abramson (politics, Brandeis) believes in the American jury system and in democracy.

We, the Jury is a rare work of scholarship that brings the history of the jury alive and shows the origins of many of today's dilemmas surrounding juries and justice.

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We, The Jury first appeared in 1994, at a time of growing public cynicism about jury justice. Race everywhere seemed an insurmountable obstacle to impartiality. In Los Angeles Rodney King was the story. Tallahassee did not have enough Hispanics in its jury pool; Orlando lacked sufficient African Americans.

The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy. Mr. The Washington Post Book World.

by. Jeffrey B. Abramson. Jury - United States, Justice, Administration of - United States. inlibrary; printdisabled; ; china. Kahle/Austin Foundation.

Explores the evolution of the jury system from colonial days to the present, debates fundamental questions about the jury system, and examines cases from American history to show how juries form an essential element of democracy
There is a canard that to not know history it to be doomed to repeat it. Usually I have found that most people who read history do so in a manner that distorts it to fit their own views on contemporary issues (Newt Gingrich is a good example of this). This is not necessarily a bad thing but the reader should be self-aware.
There is some truth to the canard. It is impossible to read in early American history without realizing that many of the same issues that the founding generations dealt with are still being played out in the political arena.
I came to this book because I was looking for detailed background on the historical evolution of the jury, especially in regards to jury nullification. Over and over again in the ratification debates, various founders discuss the need for the jury to be able to decide on the law itself not just the facts of the case.
Abramson gives an excellent succinct discussion of the history, as well as the history of other aspects of the jury's role; e.g., the unanimous verdict, preemptory challenges and the application of the death penalty.
What makes these discussions particularly incisive (ironic?) is that Abramson contrasts our historical realities with an ideal of jury deliberation.
In his ideal type, the jury is a model of deliberative democracy. People bring to their jury duty the sum total of their knowledge and experience and work together to fashion a unanimous verdict based on a worked out sense of community justice. Abramson, I believe, regards this model as the ideal that juries have striven for over the centuries. One aspect of this ideal that he emphasizes is that it is only on a jury that most of us get to actually participate in the act of governance.
As a juror, I decide when and how to apply the law to my fellow citizens. At that moment, I am the government.
Abramson adds a new touch to this by insisting that jurors as members of the various groups that make up their identities (gender, class, religion, ethnicity, etc.) bring to the deliberation the different points of views that represents those groups. As long as we don't act as blind voting blocks for those groups but still listen, debate and decide together, we are still living up to the democratic ideal of the jury.
Abramson's discussion is incredibly rich. I will detail one further aspect of it in order (I hope) to whet your appetite.
In regards to jury nullification, Abramson makes an useful distinction. We may no longer have a legal right to nullify the law when on a jury (Sparf and Hansen v. United States, 1895) but we always have the power to do so. Jury nullification continues to occur (I would argue that the only way to understand the OJ Simpson verdict is as an instance of nullification). Abramson wants us to face up to this reality. We should instruct juries as to their power to nullify. His main argument for this is that nullification works only to an acquittal, not to convict (p. 92). In this I think he is a bit naive or relying on a bit of definitional legerdemain. Juries can and will decide to ignore a judge's instruction about the admissability of evidence and will on occassion convict someone on the basis of evidence they are not supposed to consider. This can only not be considered nullification by definition. But, like Abramsom, I am willing to take the leap on nullfication because I simply believe in the American people as a whole to try to get things right.
My main complaint against the book is of a different order entirely. This is a book that is badly in need of a second edition. Not one that has the new preface that the other reviewer mentions but a complete updating of the evidence, examples and discussion.
The first edition came out as the OJ trial was dominating our scandelmongering press and there is much that has changed in our legal system since then. I would love to reread this book in a up-to-date edition.
Until such time of grace, I cannot recommend this present edition highly enough. Abramson has taught me an enormous amount about our legal system. Whether arguing for unanimous verdicts or against preemptory challenges he is learned, thoughtful and fair to all sides. And, as always, I am made hopeful but the writing of someone who really believes in what we can be as a democratic people.
In fact, perhaps the praise I should be paying to the author is that he lives up to his own ideal of deliberative democracy. So should we all.
It was useful to understanding how the American jury system came to be.
This is an important, historically based description of the function of a jury. This is a slow read. But, any adult who may be called to jury duty, should at least skim this.
good product
I found it to be such a relief to have my feelings and thoughts about what a jury should be so clearly and strongly argued and presented. Just wish his views were affecting policy and practice more in the courts and in the culture.

Abramson with the support of statistics shows that prejudicial treatment is in the penalty phase: that is, granting mercy to significantly more whites than blacks, and the least mercy of all to blacks who kill whites.

To me this was a weak point in Abramson's thought: It may not be fair to grant mercy unequally, but mercy is different from justice. Is it better to grant no mercy at all to anyone convicted of such heinous offensive crimes?

Abramson would have the opposite: Mercy for all. He believes no one at all should face the death penalty but claims this is not the book to address that question. I think it would be more honest if he clearly presented his best reasoning on the death penalty because in his last major chapter, on race and the death penalty, his views distort the topic of the jury and democracy.

The best example of that is when he describes the gruesome murder and trial of 16-year old Cheryl Ferguson in 1980. Three other janitors claimed they saw the girl head up a stairwell for a restroom and saw a black janitor Brandley follow her and heard screams. The state neglected to get blood samples or pubic hair from the other janitors to compare with what they found on the victim, and refused to follow up on statements that would have led them away from their chosen black to frame.

Though the jury was clearly chosen in a biased way, and displayed racist behavior, it seems clear to me the evil actors in this case were the prosecutor and the police who actively framed a black man to protect the white men. (The utter failure of any legal counsel for the black janitor is not mentioned but has to be just as important.)

In other words, the jury is the least of the issues here. How do we check and double check such failures and abuse of power in the judicial system as a whole and its key players? Evil is evil, but this should not lead to any conclusions about juries and democracy or about capital punishment.

Perhaps Abramson couldn't resist slipping this example in to support his belief that capital punishment should be outlawed. But for me at least this example does not do that well.

Since this book was written there have been documentaries of whites being just as evilly framed, whites who are relatively poor in terms of the monetary demands of our legal system.

I am not arguing that therefore it is not so bad for a black person to be framed. I am arguing that I would love to see someone like Abramson address the weakness in our system that expose us all to the abuse of power. I think Abramson believes in the system's ideals in spite of it imperfections at least until his chapter on the death penalty. He also gave me hope which is one reason I read this book.
It's a relief to see Prof. Abramson's fine volume on juries back in print. One of the most important books on juries written in recent years, Abramson looks at the political role of juries and makes several original observations that are in themselves worth the price of admission. This is the sort of book that is appropriate for lawyers, law and graduate students and laypersons alike.
When this book originally came out in 1994, Prof. Abramson appeared at a great number of academic symposia and other events having to do with the jury system. To some extent, this book became the focal point of the current wave of interest in the jury system, much like Kalven and Zeisel's "The American Jury" did in the 1960's. The updated preface appears to be the result of the interactions and dialogues Prof. Abramson developed with other serious jury researchers as a result of these experiences. That said, let's hope that the book remains in print for some time.