LAW: Nonproblems with Juries

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun Feb 06 2000 - 14:14:21 MST

Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
> I've always thought one of the interesting *nits* in the legal
> system is the concept of Judgement by one's "peers". Does that
> mean that I get a jury of Extropians? Or do I get a jury where
> most of the people watch Days of our Lives, Jerry Springer
> and WWF all day?

It means that you get a trial by people with randomly-distributed
positions in the social power structure, as opposed to a trial by your
local duke. Your relative intelligence and viewing habits are entirely
irrelevant to this principle. What matters is that you're not being
tried by an aristocracy, by the same people who pass the laws, or by any
other power group that might have an interest in convicting you. I
suppose the jury selection process could theoretically wind up with your
being tried entirely by members of the state legislature or some other
power group, but to create social stability it only has to work most of
the time.

Sure, "the public", in the genuine sense of twelve random people picked
off the street, might count as a power group interested in imposing an
injustice on you. This does constitute an undesirable flaw in the
system, but the system does work fairly well, it was a major improvement
over the previous system, and there is no obvious way to eliminate said
flaw without introducing other ones. After all, twelve random people
off the street have a private interest in putting murderers in jail; how
do you distinguish between this and the private interest involved in
racial or religious hate? The Constitutional answer, that there has to
be a law passed by a deliberative body *and* a willing jury, is probably
as close as you can get without an observer-independent method of
distinguishing between good laws and bad laws.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Typing in Dvorak         Programming with Patterns  Writing in Gender-neutral
Voting for Libertarians  Heading for Singularity    There Is A Better Way

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:03:30 MDT