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The unspoken crime of the Peterson trial

November 9, 2004

Is Scott Peterson guilty? He probably is, but I don't know for sure. What I do know is that the legal system as a whole is guilty of a crime: the imprisonment and enslavement of 9 12 jurors. These jurors have been taken from their normal lives and sequestered in a hotel like prisoners, and have been forced to accept a compensation lower than they otherwise would have accepted for such a job, and to do a job that they otherwise wouldn't have done. Their entire lives have been put on hold for these last several months.

For those of you who don't know precisely what "sequestered" means, it is probably worse than you imagine. Not only do they have no access to any form of news, but they are also separated from their families:

these people will know and understand that until they get a verdict, they're not going to see their families. They're not going to see their jobs. They're not going to have any contact until they make a decision

Yes, they're separated from their family and friends — for however long it takes to render a verdict, possibly weeks or even months. They're separated from their jobs and co-workers. In short, they are separated from their lives. In reality, they have been enslaved, forced to work in a job they otherwise wouldn't work in for a pay they wouldn't otherwise work for; imprisoned, trapped in a hotel for months; and isolated from the rest of society, effectively put in solitary confinement.

What I propose is that we treat the job of being a juror just like (almost) any other job: it should be something that people voluntarily decide to do and train for. There should be professional jurors, and of course there would be a free market in them (competition among jurors). It could be like a branch of law-school. And, of course, there would have to be more of a free market in their compensation. I'd propose that this be used as a springboard for the privatization of the entire legal system.

Note: Thanks to those on LiveJournal who pointed out that it's 12, not 9, jurrors (I was thinking of the USSC). Also thanks to those who pointed out that they're sequestered from this point on (during deliberations), and weren't sequestered for the entire trial. My point is still the same, however. I'd also note that the initial roundup of some 500 people to be interviewed constitutes kidnapping and essentially temporary enslavement.

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