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Should A Jury Be Allowed To Ask Witnesses Questions During Trial? /Pros & Cons!

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posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 09:55 AM
I've never served as a juror (having been able to throw myself out of the pool once, though.
), but this issue of the law allowing the ability for a jury to ask witnesses questions during a trial is novel to me.

Unfortunately, I've watched some of the circus-like capital murder trial of the State of Arizona v. Jodi Arias, and as a result, have seen via TV many of the 200 questions posed by the jury to the defendant. The State of Arizona allows this type of questioning, as do only a couple of other states--some are left at the judges' discretion.

Here is the process/format for this particular trial:

1. Jurors write down questions and submit to a box throughout a witness' testimony (anonymously)

2. After the witness goes through cross-exam & re-direct, if needed, questions are reviewed by the defense and prosecution separately with the judge

3. The judge swears in the witness, and has s/he answer....objections are still heard by the judge

So what say you, ATS?

Good or Bad process?

Pros/Cons, as you see them?

Please Discuss!

ETA: for more on this particular trial--

edit on 11-3-2013 by watchesfromwall because: Sorry on an ipad

posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 10:11 AM
reply to post by watchesfromwall

It's not something I've actually thought about before.
[color=888888](I'm pretty sure I would never be allowed on a jury...lucky me lol.)

It's seems completely logical to me though. Since the jury is responsible for the final verdict of guilty or innocent, there should be no relevant questions within their minds, that are allowed to remain unanswered.

edit on 3/11/13 by BrokenCircles because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 10:13 AM
I think it's a bad idea...but I'll admit, it took a moment for the reason to dawn and another for the full impact of it to become apparent.

I assume we'd be talking about this submission, review and question process being done many times over the course of the trial, as each witness is actually present and able to participate. Obviously...correct?

What dawned after a moment of considering was this. Attorneys on both sides already spend mega bucks on psychological experts for Jury selection and manipulation of the process by that to the extent possible. Now both sides have about equal manipulation potential so it balances out...or so I hear the logic used. Go figure with attorneys. lol...

Anyway... This would amount to a running feedback and poll of Jury concerns, questions and beliefs or disbeliefs that those psych experts would write reports on to make War and Peace look brief. I think it would literally change the whole face of trials, but not in the positive 'get to the truth' way we'd all want. I think both defense and prosecution would literally come to shift and modify their whole cases on the fly, in response to expert interpretation of what the Juries questions 'meant'.

Just my take.. Not a bad idea for intended outcome though! It's just the insertion of attorneys that screws the deal.

posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 10:24 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Originally posted by Wrabbit2000

....Attorneys on both sides already spend mega bucks on psychological experts for Jury selection and manipulation of the process by that to the extent possible. Now both sides have about equal manipulation potential so it balances out...or so I hear the logic used. Go figure with attorneys. lol...

But that doesn't necessarily guarantee that ALL of the right questions would be asked. Obviously, the importance of this matter would vary greatly from one case to the next, so I'm just thinking of it from a 'What if...?' point of view.

So what if there is one specific question that had not been asked in the courtroom, but has been deeply discussed & pondered by the jury, throughout their deliberations. IF that question is never asked, it could be possible for them to use an assumed answer to that specific question, when settling upon the final verdict.

eta: Now of course, if the correct questions have not been asked, then obviously the prosecutors and/or defense had not done their job, but the jurors are the one's who make the final call, so I still think they should have the opportunity to ask.
edit on 3/11/13 by BrokenCircles because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 10:29 AM
reply to post by BrokenCircles

Oh I agree with the interest in seeing truth come out. I've sat and listened to more than one in the legal profession say it's not about truth, it's about justice and the two may just happen to run together at times ...and other words to the same general effect. It's rather sickening to hear how the professional side of the legal system views it.

It's just a question of how the juries could get to ask their questions where the sharks at the legal tables wouldn't use that to shape the trial in response to it.

Hmm... Perhaps the Juries could be allowed their own questioning as a separate and last stage of a trial process?

Prosecution - Defense - Jury - Closing Arguments - Verdict

That order would make it work and not leave attorneys a chance to use the questions as tools to screw with things further? (Witnesses may have to come back but tough.... Such is the price of a working legal system, right?)

posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 10:47 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Originally posted by Wrabbit2000

......I've sat and listened to more than one in the legal profession say it's not about truth, it's about justice and the two may just happen to run together at times ...
I know that shouldn't have been funny at all, but for some reason, that cracked me up. lol

Originally posted by Wrabbit2000

Hmm... Perhaps the Juries could be allowed their own questioning as a separate and last stage of a trial process?

Prosecution - Defense - Jury - Closing Arguments - Verdict
Or maybe even the Judge could ask. Same order, and without the attorneys, but the Jury presents the questions to the Judge. Together the Jury and the Judge decide which questions are the important(if any), and then the Judge is the one who actually asks the questions?

I probably don't know what I'm talking about. All I know for sure is that the rest of my life will be just fine, even if I never ever again see the inside of another courtroom. lol.. It's never an enjoyable experience.

posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 04:16 PM
I absolutely think it's a great idea to let the jurors ask questions!

They are the ones who will decide the fate of the defendant. If they have questions for them, it seems glaringly obvious to me that they should ask those questions, and NOT rely simply on the "lawyers" to present the case.

I've not been fortunate enough to get picked for duty (3 times I've been called), but I have made it as far as "being in the box" when the murder case was presented to the pool of jurors.
I think the lawyers spend more time "choosing" the jurors (or ruling them out due to "bias") than they should.

Edit: I just realized that you said should they ask questions of "witnesses", not "defendants".
So, I'll answer that, too: yes. Anyone who is testifying should be presented with questions from the jury if they have them. Otherwise, wouldn't they just have to rely on one another's impressions to reach a verdict?

Let's hear it from the various horses' mouths - and THEN weigh it all.
But, of course, lawyers would hate this. It would be too easy to destroy their "case" if the witnesses were questioned by lay people who are deciding the fate. How can one be a judicious "peer" without knowing EVERYTHING the defendant and the witnesses have to say?
Yeah, yeah, it would take forever for a trial that allowed such questioning, but again, I think it would "balance the scales" more effectively. Lawyers are con men.

edit on 11-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 12 2013 @ 09:45 AM
reply to post by BrokenCircles

First, kudos to you for overcoming "courtophobia", perhaps?, by responding to this thread. I can only hope that what you went through isn't that bad as evidenced by the fact that you are still with us posting.

Yes, I agree with you in that at first thought, the process seems completely logical & good as well.

In the case I cited, the jury has to ask questions within the actual proceedings, & therefore before prior to verdict deliberations. They are under the rules to avoid discussing the case with anyone, avoid watching media accounts, etc. or otherwise, consequences like mistrial could result.

posted on Mar, 12 2013 @ 10:14 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

I must say that I'm impressed that you so quickly analyzed & so well articulated your point of view on this matter. In contrast, at 1st, I was of the stance of "Yes, power to the people," and "Yes! This is what our peers should have the right to do!" It took me a couple of days (& watching said trial coverage) to fully realize the cons of giving the jury this ability, namely, because of the lawyers' manipulation and involvement!

In addition, and I understand this is an isolated example--the Judge has played a huge role IMO in encouraging manipulation by allowing almost a week of court recess since Arias was last on the stand after 2 days of answering jurors' questions, (and after spending over 2 weeks of direct and cross-exam testimony).

I like the idea of your suggestion of: prosecution - defense- jury - closing- verdict. But, it could be very expensive to call back many witnesses for jury only questions. Perhaps time on stand/number of questions, or some kind of other ratio could be used to allow some witnesses to answer jury questions during prosecution or defense stages...saving jury stage for witnesses that get a lot of time on stand or that get asked a lot of questions???


For you, or anyone interested, have you directly experienced jury questioning?

And related to a current topic, how might a very hostile jury (like OBL's son-in-law in a NYC jury) or a very empathetic jury influence a trial?

posted on Mar, 12 2013 @ 11:07 AM
reply to post by watchesfromwall

I think I'd be happier with myself if I could get past this point of ideas for one that would work. Your overall concept has proven a whole lot more complex to actually do than I'd ever have thought. Perhaps, this is why we don't see a form of it in the system now? After all, the Founders were smart guys and probably had seen Courts as participants or sat on one side or another in British Courts for something in their lives to have been thinking it all through by experience.

My idea, as you note, has some major issues with bringing people back. When I'd first thought of it, my counter was a simple 'tough'. Justice demands sacrifice sometimes..and some extra time is a real small one in the balance.

However, that didn't account for emotionally charged or traumatic trials and wouldn't those be some of the most important for not just questioning but outcome to get right this way? Trials with under age victims or sexual trials of any form, really...among the many that would truly be hardship on some of the most important witnesses to being back? I suppose my added stage might be more workable in civil court where the stakes aren't as high, generally, for what people are put through in appearing?

* ....Then I thought hard about the Judge asking the questions from a submission in advance. Err... Two things make that unrealistic. First, the Jury might as well ask for the difference it makes. The attorneys and their experts will likely know or guess who they came from...and it doesn't matter that much because over all jury mood is what they'd turn cases on a dime to accommodate, IMO. That doesn't solve that a bit.. Second though, HOW a question is asked can mean everything, right? How many of us have had questions rephrased by someone else or heard someone ask a slight variation of something we wanted to ask see how true that is? An honest and truly unbiased judge would be required....every time.

* .... I considered closed sessions with the Judge, Jury and Witness for questioning the Attorneys don't hear in real time to react and "adjust their show" for. Sounds good....would work too ....if the Judge and overall system can be trusted. What came to mind fairly quick there are the old 'Southern' Juries of the 50's, in particular. Where the surprisingly ALL white Jury and the lily white Judge could find murder in the public square a not-guilty if the races of the people involved were wrong. any private events outside view of the attorneys" Oh... Talk about enormous unintended consequence I hadn't first seen. Some poor guys being convicted sure would though, eh?

So I'm really not sure what would work? I still believe the need is very real and important. It's just like the scientific concept of observation. You can't observe something without changing it to you add something to the system, however important here, without changing the whole thing?

posted on Mar, 12 2013 @ 11:44 AM
Is is a good idea, yes, will it happen, no. Here is why. The effort of "win/lose" in a courtroom is set up on lies, deceit, manipulation, parsing, word games, and the now famous world of only answering yes-no. This makes both sides playing a game of mental and psychological manipulation, not a game about the truth. You can only speak to this if you've been in court, and you'll know what is like to be asked a question that cannot be answered, with a preamble that was designed to be seen by the jury as fact and influence them more then the answer.

For example, "sir, you've been a long time user of drugs, in your opinion, were you impaired at the time of your arrest." You'll note the "long time user of drugs" is tied to the question, by answering the question, the defendant has admitted to being a long time user of drugs to the jury, this part sits in their mind more then his answer.

Consider, testifying in court is an art, a true art form, and few can do it well after they have been coached. Oddly enough, there is no class, no education, not one minute time spent on teaching people about this prior to getting into court. If testifying is so important, so hard to do, so integral to the scheme of law, why is there no classes in school devoted to it? The reason, the court counts of the fact that all people are ignorant to the process.

In some places the judge may ask questions, but since he works for the same people as the lawyers, it is hard to find him objective. Were a jury made up of ACTUAL peers, medical case with medicos, construction case with construction workers etc., and they were allowed to ask questions which would illuminate the issue, we'd see true justice. Now, we just see ways to balance the bank accounts of those involved - yes the bank is involved in civil and criminal matters (see the long history of maritime law in the US) and there is no such thing as justice in this rigged system.

posted on Mar, 12 2013 @ 04:19 PM
reply to post by crankyoldman


It IS happening! in the state of Arizona v. Arias, in the US, as I'm replying to this.

For further info., please refer to: & take a look at the Jodi Arias trial, and jury questioning the witness ( Arias) who also happens to be the defendant.

Her defense team decided to put her on the stand after the 32 year old eventually confessed to the murder of her ex-boyfriend. Allegedly, she stabbed him 29 times, slashed his throat, and shot him in the head before fleeing the scene without calling authorities.

Since Arizona allows jury questioning of witnesses, they, IMO, were able to catch her in a couple of inconsistencies from her previous testimony. Thus, I'm asserting that if her eventual verdict is unfavorable to her, this may be providing grounds for an appeal all the way up to SCOTUS-- since Arizona is one of the few states that allow jury questions...then again, the defense team didn't have to put her on the stand.

Many legal pundits are saying that this is a landmark case because of those factors mentioned.

I am sorry if I wasn't clear in my OP.


Again, a call out to anyone in AZ or any other US state that allows juror questions of the witness?

Thoughts? Prior Outcomes in those trials?

edit on 12-3-2013 by watchesfromwall because: (no reason given)

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