The Jury Pool is Getting Very Shallow

by Sean Carter

It's been said that only fools are likely to get justice because they are the only ones ever tried by a jury of their peers. Truer words were never spoken. In fact, if our jury pools get any shallower we're going to have to start posting "No Diving Head First" signs in front of the courthouse.

This was illustrated last month in a Tennessee courthouse. During voir dire, one of the prospective jurors announced, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite." Needless to say, he was made foreman of the jury.

Seriously, he was dismissed along with several other "pillars of the community." One such pillar admitted to be arresting and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew for refusing to come out from the under bed (if your uncle was holding a gun, wouldn't you?).

Another possible Nobel Laureate admitted to alcohol problems, which culminated in his arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth." Yuck!

And please believe me, I'm not making any of this up. If I were that creative, I'd be writing sitcoms, movies or U.S. intelligence reports. These are actually some of the people who show up to judge the fate of others.

Are you scared yet? I am. In fact, I'd rather try to make it through airport security wearing an "I Love Osama Bin Laden" t-shirt than having my day in court with these candidates for sainthood.

This is why I continue to push for a professional jury system. Think about it for a moment. Every other player in a courtroom is a paid professional. The judge and the lawyers are paid professionals. In fact, even the bailiff gets paid, despite the fact that his only two duties are to: (1) correctly pronounce the name of the judge; and (2) not snore too loudly through the proceedings.

Yet, we live the most important job - deciding innocent or guilt - to unpaid volunteers. In no other context would we even consider such a thing.

To illustrate, let's suppose that you went to hospital for open heart surgery. Now, imagine that as they wheel you into the operating room, the nurse says, "We'd like you to meet Bob. He has volunteered to do your open heart surgery. Of course, he doesn't have any medical training, but he did vote in the 1972 Democratic Primary."

In this situation, the only questions would be how fast you were able to get out of the hospital and whether you could safely maneuver that gurney on the freeway. Yet, this is exactly the position in which we put criminal defendants everyday in this nation's courts. And then we wonder why we continually find ourselves releasing innocent men from prison 20 years after the fact.

Of course, there is one minor hurdle to a professional jury system - the 6th Amendment, which requires a jury of one's peers. Yet, the President doesn't seem to have any problem with ignoring the Constitution, so why should we? Besides, we're in a war here - the War Against Stupidity. And from my vantage point on the front lines, we're losing . badly.

Sean Carter is a lawyer, public speaker, and the author of "If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? - Your Humorous Guide to the Law". He can be reached at