Home News The jury system remains a cornerstone of democracy

The jury system remains a cornerstone of democracy


The TV remote got a wild workout on May 30, as I switched rapidly from cable news talking head to talking head. Those Energizer batteries do indeed keep going and going and going.

Watching the subjective responses following the unanimous guilty verdict in the “hush-money” trial of former President Donald Trump, I waited for the question never asked. As pro-Trumpers railed against the jury’s decision after 10 hours of deliberations and his distractors held back their glee, none of those commenting on the outcome were asked, “Have you ever served on a jury?”

That question would have given some insight and clarity to the ex-president’s claim the verdict was “rigged.” According to him, the 2020 election was rigged, and other court cases now-convicted-felon Trump faces in the future also are “rigged” against him.

Seems there’s enough rigging in today’s America to set sail on a three-masted pirate ship and become a privateer seeking booty and riches in ports from sea to shining sea. That is if we were still in the Age of Sail.

But if the former president was found not guilty or there was a hung jury, would those convinced the trial was “rigged” in liberal New York City be complaining about the verdict? Of course not.

They would be crowing that the system worked for a public official charged with 34 counts of criminality in order to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election. That was to be accomplished by paying an adult film star to keep quiet about a sexual tryst.

One can gripe about “Crooked Joe Biden” or alleged unscrupulous witnesses, but to claim the trial was “rigged” defies credulity. The jury system is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

It is so sacred that in Lake County, the Circuit Court judges have sponsored for decades Juror Appreciation Week. It recognizes those who have been summoned for jury duty or have served in the past. Last year, it was held from Oct. 2-6.

Other states, too, recognize the contributions of jurors by holding their weeks in early May to coincide with Law Day.

Last year, some 9,000 jurors from across Lake County reported for jury service, Circuit Court officials estimated. According to the National Center for State Courts, 95% of all jury trials are held in the U.S.

And rightly so. It’s a civic duty, after all, one in which jurors have a sober undertaking. Lives are in their hands, futures are judged. Justice is meted out by a jury of a defendant’s peers.

The seven men and five women on the Trump jury, residents of Manhattan, spent seven weeks and earned $40 a day, plus meals, for their trouble. For their service, they now are being harassed by some Americans who think the ex-president was railroaded.

Lake County pays jurors $30 a day, and usually you hand the check over to your employer. Mileage to the courts building is not included.

I served on a jury a few years ago. After being dismissed from the first trial during voir dire — where judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys question one’s impartiality — I was plucked from the jury pool for another attempt at being seated.

The second trial was the charm. It was a DUI case out of Round Lake Beach pursued under village ordinance charges. It lasted through two days of testimony.

We jurors took the dispensation of justice seriously. Certainly, like those New York State jurors sitting in the courtroom during the historic Trump trial.

In the end, it didn’t take long to convict the woman driver after hearing testimony. We rendered a split verdict: Guilty on the charge of driving under the influence; not guilty of reckless driving.

Like New York Judge Juan Merchan, our sitting judge, a former Lake County assistant state’s attorney, met with the jurors after the verdict was determined. He was curious about the jury’s deliberations; and which evidence weighed heavier on the outcome of our verdicts. He also thanked us for our service, which judges graciously do after verdicts are returned.

There’s few things the republic asks of us. One of them is serving as a juror when called, hearing the evidence as presented and rendering a just decision.

Everybody gets a fair trial. Some now may not agree, but it’s a system that has served us well over the centuries.

Another thing that has served us well are elections. This year, we hold our 60th presidential election and as jurors we will have to weigh the evidence offered between two national candidates seeking our votes.

Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor. 

[email protected]

Twitter: @sellenews

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