Before you start reading my article (if you decide to do so), you have to understand one thing. If you are a US citizen, canadian citizen, citizen of the UK, you might ask, why I talk about juries. For example, in the United States, it is absoluterly certain and automatic, that a jury decides a big case in the field of criminal law. O. J. Simpson was acquitted by a jury. Later on, O. J. Simpson was found guilty in a different case-by a jury. Jury is a part of american life, american culture. There is an idiom, or a cliché: "the jury is still out". This means: we do not know yet, whether it is good or not. It is still undecided. They do not say: "judge has not decided yet". Nobody can imagine, that a life in prison can be decided by a single person - a professional judge - not a jury.
Yet, believe it or not, there are countries, where there are no juries. Once you are accused and you go to the court, you will be found guilty. For example, in the Czech republic, only about 3, 4 or 5 % of the defendants are acquitted. The rest of the defendants is found guilty - by a judge - not by a jury. Where is some justice to it, when one man, or one woman, decides, whether you are guilty or not? I beg you, never, ever, even think, about having other system, than the one you have, that is the one with a jury. If you live in a country, where there are juries, be happy. Only democratic countries do have juries. On the other hand, there are people, who think, that juries are something old, outdated, that they belong to the history. State officials, especially the ones, who are former communists, and after the so called velvet revolution turned their coats, do not want to hear a word about juries. They say, that juries are part of a different system. This is not true. We had juries in our country, before the communist coup d'etat. The communists got rid of the juries. No wonder. I understand, why they did it. They needed obedient yes men, who sent anybody to die or to live in prison, just because he or she was not loved by the commies. Today, some twenty years after the fall of communism, we still do not have juries. Many judges, especially the ones in higher places, are former communists. They do not want juries.
Have you ever seen Twelve angry men? This play could never be written in a country without juries. Is it right, that in European union there are countries, which have juries, while the Czech republic, also a member of European union, does not have juries? Never think about other system, than system with juries. If you have any doubts, come to the Czech republic and you will see something.
Now comes text, that is meant for starters, people, who know nothing about juries. You have to understand, that in my country, that is in the Czech republic, there are people, who, if you talk to them about juries look at you, as if you were crazy. They think, that juries are something bad. In the Czech republic, any kind of information about juries is blocked out. It is wrong, because without juries, there is no justice.
(Translated from original text by the author.)
At the present time, there are not juries in the Czech republic in its judicial system. Juries were removed by communist regime and until today, approximatelly twenty years after the fraudulent so called velvet revolution, is this situation by today's rulers preserved. It is not necessary to emphasize, that many of the present day men and women in high places, especially in judiciary, held high position alredy in the days of communist tyrany. Many of the today's judges were members of the communist party. Many of the today's judges were judges already in the time of communism. Many of the today's judges were judges already in the time of communism and, at the same time, were members of the communist party. It is weird. In Germany, after the Second World War former nazis were removed from public offices. It is, after all, matter-of-course, that when dictatorship falls, its servants are, at least most of them, if not all of them, removed from public service.
From communist era judges, nothing good can be expected. To stay in their positions, they would do anything. They take the easiest way. They take the indicement and copy it into the verdict. A judge should be (besides other things) a man or a woman, who has some character, you need to hold him or her in high esteem. Is it possible, to hold in a high esteem a person, who served to communists and were a member of the criminal communist party, into the bargain? Of course, in almost every democratic or developed state it goes without saying, that about more important things, or about everything in the court of justice, decisions make juries, not judges, or to be more precise, solo judges.
Here is a normal picture from a courtroom in the United States.
The defendand is being defended by his defender (attorney at law, counselor) and this defender has a right, after the indictment is read, to make a statement to this indictment. The prosecutor (district attorney, assistant district attorney) and the defender have a right to make opening statements. During these statements they explain, what they actually claim to be true, what kind of evidence they will pursue. In the Czech republic it is not expressly stated in any law, that the defender or the defendant has the right to give an answer to the just cited indictment, even though this indictment contains obvious falsehoods, inaccuracies, mistakes and so on.
In the jury system, the prosecutor summons his witnesses, whom he also questions. When he finishes examining, the witness is turned over to the defender and the defender now questions the witness. Should these witnesses fail to appear in the court of justice, the defender has the authority to let them be brought. Summons (subpoena) issued by defender has the same weight as summons issued by the court of justice, by a judge, district attorney (prosecutor), or police. During questioning the witness by defender, nobody can disturb the defender, disrupt the defender by entering into the questioning. (In the Czech republic, it is common, that when it is the defender's turn - after the judge, after the prosecutor - and the defender wants to ask a question, the judge tells him, that the question is not important, that the question was already given. In many cases, the judge keeps asking the defender, if he has still more questions, how more questions, how long it takes. Many times it is very degrading to work as a defender.) When the defender finishes (now I speak again about a real judicial system) with his questions, the witness is due to answer the questions of district attorney, that is the prosecutor. In the czech judicial system, defender may not summon even one single witness. He may only suggest a hearing of a witness, and if a judge does not agree with his suggestion, the judge summons this witness not and this suggested witness is not heard. Motion to hear this witness is rejected. Here is the defense obviously disadvantaged, because in preliminary procedures (pre-court phase), the district attorney hears whomever he wants to. At the court of justice the district attorney simply makes a statement, that he does not agree with reading of the testimony of particular witness and this witness is automaticaly summoned to the court of justice. Questioning in pre-court phase is done mostly by police (or it could be done by the prosecutor, who gives orders to the police) and they question whomever they want. If they do not want to question somebody, they simply do not question him. When the case reaches the court, there is much evidence against the accused in the files. In his favour, there is mostly nothing at all, because a policeman may reject every motion to complete the investigation. At the court of justice, the defense (again) may not summon anybody, the defense may only suggest hearing of a witness, which is often rejected, (this time by judge, who says, that this witness is not needed.)
In the Czech republic, interrogation of witnesses in the court of justice is performed by judge, after him gets his turn prosecutor and only after them the defender. The situation of the defender is made more difficult, because when it is his turn, it is regular, that the witness was already repeatedly questioned by a policeman in preliminary procedures (pre-court phase), then for a long time by judge, sometimes rather long by the prosecutor and when the defender finally poses a question, he is immediately corrected by the judge, by whom he is adviced, that this question was already posed, this question is not to the point, the matter was already clarified and so on.
When performing of evidence is finished, it is given both in a jury and a (single) judge system, instruction to address the court with final statements (closing arguments).
Here we can see a fundamental difference. In the jury system, there is the jury, which during court procedures did not intervene. After the final statements (closing arguments), made by the prosecutor and the defender, the jury leaves the courtroom to discuss the case. The jury may not be interrupted during its discussion. Nobody may enter into the jury room, especially not the judge, the prosecutor, the defender, the accused. After sufficient time, the jury decides: guilty, or not guilty. Its verdict the jury does not explain, does not reveal its reasoning. Once the verdict is passed by the jury, the jury is dismissed.
In the system, which we know, I am sorry to say, it is the judge again, who makes the decisions. That is, after both closing statements are performed, it is simply the judge again, who decides, whether the accused is guilty or not. The judge also decides, how much the accused will be punished. It is therefore the same person, who interrogated witnesses, the accused, experts and, yes, even who decided, which proof of evidence shall be admissible and will be performed and which is not admissible and will not be performed (not before a jury, but before the judge). (I can never emphasize enough, how much I dislike, scorn and abhor this non-jury system).
It is obvious, that percentage of acquitted defendants is different in solo-judge system from percentage in jury system. In the jury system, the judge is neutral, objective. He does not ask questions, he does not interfere to the prosecutor and the defender in performing proofs of evidence. The whole trial is a duel beetween defence and prosecution, while the jury does not take side of anybody. If there is a strong evidence in disfavour of the defendant, then the jury proclaims the defendant as guilty. If there is a strong evidence in his favour, or if the evidence is unclear, if there is a doubt and so on, the jury acquitts the defendant. It is clear from the essence of the matter, that the amount or the percentage of the accused, who are acquitted, is huge, it ranges in tens of percents. The jury is impartial. It is constituted from local blameless citizens. Impartiality of the jury is extraordinary important factor. In order to secure impartiality of the jury and to let the defendant, the defender and the prosecutor know and to be sure, that the jury is really impartial, before the actual trial takes place, selection of the jury takes place. During the selection of the jury, prospective jurors arrive in the courtroom. To these prospective jurors the defender and the prosecutor may pose questions. The purpose of these questions is to find out, whether the prospective jurors are biased in favour or in disfavour of the defendant. The jurors also must be selected in a manner, which secures, that they are not from the same social class. Defender of an accused owner of a factory would not like to see a jury constituted only from fired workers, who do not even collect unemployment support, thanks to their former employer, hard exploiter. District attorney, on the other hand, would not like to see a jury constituted solely from millionaires passing a judgement in the case of an accused millionaire, who is a member of the same yacht club.
On the contrary, in the czech (solo) judge system, the number of the accused who are acquitted is very small, almost negligible. This fact is given by many factors. Should there be an acquittal, the district attorney almost always appeals the case and the case goes to the court of appeals. The court of appeals does not have the power to proclaim the acquitted defendant guilty, but it may return the case to the court of the first instance. If the court of appeals does not agree with the acquitting sentence, they render the sentence null and void and the case is returned back to the court of the first instance (lower court.) Should the court of appeals not agree with the sentence, by which the defendant was found guilty, it does not have to send the case back to the lower court, but it may proclaim the sentence void, overturn the verdict of the lower court and proclaim the defendant not guilty. Many judges told me, therefore, that in the case, that the evidence is so to speak "on the edge" they find the defendant guilty. If he appeals the verdict, the court of appeals "may always acquit him and the thing does not go back to me." The courts of the lower instance decide in the easiest manner, so that the cases are not overturned by the courts of appeal and thus, they do not have cases returned to them and they do not get into troubles, that go together with returned cases.
In the jury system, the judges are exceptionally experienced people. They do not perform exhibiting of proofs of evidence and all the time they just look on silently. They are the very ones, nonetheless, who are responsible for the trial. For this reason, if they find out, that anything is unacceptable, they try to call to order. In the case that the defender or the district attorney makes an objection (Objection, Your Honour!), they decide if there is a reason for the objection, or not. (Sustained. Overruled.) Thus, it is quite understandable, that in the USA, for example, a judge before becomming a judge must be at least forty years of age in the most of the states and must have previous experience in the field of law at least ten years. (That means, he must be ten years a member of the bar association. The time before passing the bar examination is not counted.)
In our country, that is in the Czech republic, courts of justice have only small respect by the people. I will not repeat a well known story about dropped charges against a prominent politician. (This story is not well known outside of my country. A highly visible man, man in a high position, was charged with a crime, to say it simply, because he reputedly took a bribe. The case was taken from the prosecutor to whom the case was given and it was given to a different prosecutor, to a different town. After some time, this new prosecutor dropped all the charges.) I will not go into a long story, how this case was stopped, how the charges were dropped. This sad story is known to every little child.
It has no sense to write about a certain group of people, who discussed this matter in a certain hotel in Brno. (Brno is the second biggest city in my country, the hotel there was one of the finest hotels.) These hotel guests did actually sue somebody, who called them a not flattering name. This action was overturned and the case was given to a different judge. (Just to be given to the same judge shortly afterward again.)
Now, here is another one: a man was sentenced to life in prison, because he reputedly shot to death two men. There are many people, who never believed it, including me. But, this is a story for itself. This man filed a motion for a renewal of his trial. There were witnesses testifying in his favour. Some newspapermen secretly left a tape recorder in the courtroom. While the judge did not know, that somebody can hear him, he made some unfriendly comments about the witnesses, calling them some bad names (riff-raff, scum). Simply courts have no respect. (Surprisingly, as it can be: the motion to renew the trial was - what else - denied).
While to become a judge in the USA is culminating of a career of a lawyer, in the Czech republic, it is the begining of his career, where somebody becomes a judge most of the time this way: after finishing the faculty of law (law school), he starts working in a court of justice as so called "justiční čekatel" (term, which is very hard to translate - maybe: "judiciary waiting man/woman"). After three years of waiting, this waiting man/woman passes an examination and he or she is a judge. In many cases, before becoming a judge, the adept does not have to perform any activity, where he would have to support himself, he does not have to speak even one foreign language and he does not have to have a driver's licence. This kind of a judge then decides about the fact, how many years in jail spends somebody, who took part in a car accident, otherwise an experienced, long term driver. The present judiciary system in the Czech republic is something sad. It is necessary to change it and to renew juries. Judiciary system, where there are juries is something completely different. A state, which has such a judiciary, as the Czech republic has, needs to try to catch up with the others a lot. Let us not rely on politicians or on the fact that "amendment is being prepared". Juries exist today already even in Russia, that is in that Russia, about which (czech) present day newspapers and television have nothing good to say. (Not a long time ago, we were servants of Russians. Today, czech officials are servants of the USA. Russia is not a servant of the USA. How come, how can they afford it?) Their judiciary, though, is more developed today than ours. Let us be active in this matter. I am not interested in some sages, burdened by years, who often explain to us from TV screens the essence of the matter. Most of them are former members of the communist party. On the contrary, there are many of young, thoughtful people, who would like to see changes for the better. In the same manner, there are people of older, or mid-aged generation, who are not burdened by totalitarian way of thinking and can reason, using their healthy mind. Progress may not and can not be stopped. The future belongs to democracy. To democracy belong election, political parties, private ownership, enterprise and, of course, juries. We are members of the European union. Almost in every member state of the European union there are juries in the courts of justice. Why is that, that an Englishman or a Frenchman, who is accused of a crime, is being put before a jury, consisting of his fellow citizens, while a Czech, who is accused of commiting a crime goes before a single, solo judge? Why is that, that an Englishman, or a Frenchman has a hope to get a more just process than a Czech? Only few percent of the accused in the Czech republic are acquitted, usually from three to five percent are being mentioned. To this question there is simply no answer. It is naturally unjust. All the citizens of the European union should have approximatelly same rights. One solo judge in the Czech republic decides himself about criminal offenses in cases, where the crime carries maximum penalty of up to five years. It means, that one person can separate somebody from his family, surrounding world, work, for five years. If the maximum penalty is more than five years (including life term) there is one professional judge together with two judges, who are not professional and these three judges decide together. (These non-professional judges are called "soudce přísedící", which is hard to translate. The meaning of this term is "judge sitting together" or better yet "judge co-sitting".) These three judges, before they pass the verdict, discuss the matter together. Theoretically, these two unprofessional judges have the same voting right as the professional judge, who is the chairman of the senate. (Professional judge and two unprofessional judges form a panel of three judges, which is called "senate". Professional judge is "chairman of the senate", two unprofessional judges are "judges co-sitting".) In fact, two unprofessional judges have not the same rights as the professional judge, or if you want, the "chairman of the senate". Why is it so? The professional judge decides, who of the "co-sitting judges" (maybe also might be translated as "by-sitting judges") he will choose next time and for which case. Should any of the "by-sitting judges" argue with the professional judge, the professional judge will simply not call him the next time. By-sitting judges are mostly pensioners, who in this manner, as by-sitting judges, make at least some small amount of money in addition to their small pension. They may not therefore afford to resist to the will of the professional judge and they simply sign the sentence which passes the professional judge, without airing their opinions. Who assumes, that judges by-sitting are a guarantee of an independent justice and that a senate (chairman of the senate and the two judges by-sitting) are some kind of a mini-jury, is wrong, because this is not so. It is a pity. Have you ever seen the Twelve angry men? That is someting different, isn't that so? Juries usually exist there, where there is a system with participation of its citizens on governing the state. In some countries, their citizens have a right to participate in ruling their country in the form of voting in a referendum. Mostly, it is so: there, where a referendum is, there are also juries. In the moment, when I write these lines, absolute mojority of people of the Czech republic is against placing of any foreign radar on our territory. The present ruling group has the nerv and the arrogance however, to overlook opinion of the people and to enforce placing this radar on our soil, even though our present Big Brother is interested in the radar only to a certain extent. In a civilized country, the opinions of its citizens should not be ignored so much. Of course, present ruling people want to install in the country foreign radar, without giving the people a chance to express their opinion in a referendum. Simply it is "they" who decide against our will, we do not have a chance to just express our opinion.
In a country, where there are no referenda, there are usually no juries. In the Czech republic, the decisionmaking takes place about us, without us. One example of decisionmaking about us, without us, is decisionmaking in courts of justice. In courtrooms, the decisionmaking is done by solo-judges, in some cases with assistance of judges by-sitting, while judges by-sitting are citizens, who are not professional judges and they assist to the professional judge, the professional judge being a chairman of the senate. If judges by-sitting and professional judge do not come to an agreement, the professional judge does not have to call the judges by-sitting next time. Every judge by-sitting thinks twice, before he does not come to an agreement with professional judge. At least in most cases. (There are judges by-sitting, who actually vote, and this is not everything, they vote against the will of the professional judge, who is the chairman of the senate.) Jurrors, as oposed to judges by-sitting, are completely independent, they do not have to discuss with anybody, but between themselves, they are not responsible to anybody. They do not have to explain reasons for their decision, they simply arrive in the courtroom and simply state: "Guilty", "Not guilty". (The decision usually proclaims their spokesman, chairman. Sometimes, they write it on a piece of paper, pass the paper to the court clark and he or she reads the decision.) In some cases, nonetheless, they do not reach the verdict and they have to be disassembled. In a case like this, the state attorney (district attorney, prosecutor) must bring the case again to court, new jury is assembled, everything starts again. In true life situation, should a stalemate situation like this occur, the state attorney (prosecutor) most of the times just drops the charges and the case does not go back to the court.
In the Czech republic, the judiciary is solely in the hands of professional judges. They decide everything. They decide whom they will hear out. They decide what questions they will ask. They decide what kind of proof of evidence they will perform. They decide what questions they will deny to the defence and to the state attorney. Mostly to the defence. After performing proofs of evidence, they decide the case. Maybe one and only good thing, which remained in czech courtrooms (from pre-communist era), is the posibility for a defence attorney to deliver closing speach, or final arguments, closing arguments. Here the defender may speak, evaluate individual exibits, serving as proofs of evidence. He can point out mitigating circumstances and so on. But even closing arguments are, time by time, being belittled. Not long time ago, I was delivering final statements in a very important, difficult case. This final statements I had very well prepared. I worked on it very hard, and it was really very diligently prepared. After a while I have noticed, that the judge shakes his head (simply he was showing marks of displeasure). He asked me, how long yet I intend to speak. He told me, that what I just do, is evaluating the proofs and that this is not necessary, because the court knows, how the situation looks like. I asked him not to disturb me, while I am trying to deliver my final statements, which I have had really diligently prepared and I wanted to concentrate myself. By the way, this judge was during the court procedures very unfriendly towards me and when I tried to ask questions, he made my job very hard, interrupted me in questionning the witnesses. It is obvious, that I asked each and every question, which I wanted to ask. But, this is not the way it should be. If I ask a question, it has some meaning to it. It is very difficult to concentrate myself and at the same time, face questions from a judge such as: "What sense does this question have? Why do you ask this?" "Could you be more brief in asking questions?" and so on. In more developed countries, I have not witnessed this kind of behavior.
In jury system, it is also impossible, that the judge is biased in favour or in disfavour of the accused, defender, state attorney (district attorney). Should the judge dislike for example the defender, then it does not matter, because it is the jury, who decides. If the jury displeases the judge with its verdict (this happens often, when the verdict is "not guilty"), its members could not care less, because afterwards they are dismissed, they go home and they do not meet the judge anymore. For the next jury service, they do not meet the judge anymore. For the next jury service they are not called for the next couple of years, decades. Sometimes, they are not called to serve in a jury ever again. With choosing prospective jurors the judge has nothing to do, into the bargain.
An argument against juries is, that juries do not belong to "contintntal" law, but they are part of the "anglo-saxon" judical system. This is simply not true. Juries were part of the judicial system of the ancient Austria-Hungary and were taken over by the first republic, of course. (First republic, the first period of the czechoslovak state, golden era, communist and nazi free.)
It is possible to say, that for example Karel Havlíček Borovský (czech patriot, journalist, writer and rebel) was saved from prison only by the fact, that when he was brought to court, he was tried by a jury. Havlíček committed the "crime" of making "anti-state" speaches and for that he was brought before a court in Kutná Hora. (Town in central Bohemia, formerly very important, known for silver mines and rich burghers.) Solely czech jury acquitted him of all charges. He was lucky, that in that time, juries existed. Can you imagine, what would have happened, if a certain woman-judge were to decide his destiny, who in the time of communist regime condemned a pub waiter for making comments agains commies and sent him to jail. (She did not put him on probation, no, she has sent him to jail. Now, this woman is member of the czech constitutional court.) What would have been the destiny of Havlíček, if he were tried not by a jury, but by one, loyal little soul? No, Havlíček was rescued by a jury. In many other european countries, which has nothing to do with "anglo-saxon" law, there are juries.
As I have mentioned above, in the Czech republic, the courts are solely in the hands of judges. Defender may not subpoena even one witness. (He may only make a suggestion, a motion to judge, that it would be good to call somebody as a witness. The judge may or may not call the person to the court.) Citizen is even by this fact educated to the feeling of being without any power, to the feeling, that about him decides somebody else. On the contrary, if a citizen is called to the jury duty, it means, that his opinion has its weight, that his word counts. In the USA, for example, they hold their right to be tried by a jury as one of their fundamental rights. If it is once decided by a jury, this decision is not belittled in any way and it is fully respected. The right to be tried by a jury is also explained as a right to be tried by a jury consisting of citizens, who are peers of the defendant. In a civil case, the jurors should be roughly from the same social class, as the contenting parties. Have you ever seen court procedures (in the Czech republic) with somebody, performed by a solo judge, who is very poor? Have you ever seen a court procedures (in the Czech republic) with somebody, who is a member of a minority? (In the Czech republic, it is very often the case of the Gypsies, who are sometimes handled very roughly.)
It is true, that in the Czech republic, there is a two level judiciary, that means, that each verdict might be examined through an appeal. Go, then, and see a public hearing about an appeal. This hearing takes usually couple of minutes, while the defendant is being asked, not to speak much longer, because everything is known to the court of appeals. If the attorney adresses the court of appeals little bit longer than for a very short time (with his appeal) he is advised, that these facts are already known to the court of appeals and so on. (You do not have to speak so much, we are short on time, you do not have to read it word by word.) After that, public hearing takes a very short break in order to consult the case in a very short session (decide three professional judges behind closed doors) and appeal-once it was filed by the defendant - is ussually rejected - turned down.
Little bit better situation is when the public hearing takes place at one of the superior courts, rather than regional courts. (Regional courts decide appeals against verdicts of the lowest courts, local courts. Superior courts decide appeals of regional courts, when they act as courts of the first level. This is in the case of murders, big white collar crimes and other more serious crimes.) The public hearing here takes place sometimes the whole day, sometimes even several days. Defendant, his attorney, district attorney are being heard, nobody looks at wrist watch all the time. In a greater measure, the verdict is upon the appeal of the defendant overturned and the case is (for example, as one of the possibilities) sent back to the regional court - or, even to the district attorney's office, to the period before the case is brought to the court, as the case might be.
As it springs forth from the thing itself, system of law, which counts with juries, is more dignified, more just, more objective. If we want to see that our society goes forward, we must fight for the re-establisment of the juries. It is obvious, that "old structures" (this is how we in the Czech republic call former servants of the communist regime, mostly communists themselves, who turned their coats and now are in high positions again) would be always against it. It is - juries - something, what they do not know, it is in strong contradiction to their understanding of the world, where it is somebody important who makes the decisions, somebody, who has some position, spot of importance, rubber stamp. It is clear, then, that old structures are against. Or, as I have written above, they would be against it, because juries are yet not even discussed. One of the reasons, why old structures would be against juries, is that they do not know any foreign language, so they could not read anything about juries, even if they wanted, by all their nice (communist) way of thinking. As far as I know, in the Czech republic were not printed yet any comprehensive works, dealing with the question of juries. The ones, who are interested in this subject, have to turn their eyes to foreign language literagure, or to turn to internet. But, have you seen too many odlstructuremen fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, German? I have to admit, that I did not see many of the old structures speaking any foreign language at all. (Most of the sources on internet are written in English, besides others. There are articles in French, Italian... but not too much in Czech, at least not about juries.)
In order for the juries to exist in our country once again, it is necessary, that something is done. There are new generations, who watch T. V. and see western court process at the trial, they can see, how the trial in the West looks like. These people are not burdened by wasting their time on communist meetings. (Or on the meetings of Socialist youth organization, if they were younger and did not make it yet to be a member of the communist party.) They master foreign languages. They have foreign sojourns under their belts. Some false authority, which are served to us every day by newspapers and especially television, will not fool them already. (As they can never fool me.)
This treatise of mine is supposed to serve to that purpose, that somebody at least reads somewhere something about juries. This topic must be somehow presented to the public, otherwise nobody learns anything about it. It is sure to me, that newspaper, radio and TV will never give me the opportunity to open discussion on this subject. I hope, though, that with the help of internet, publications printed and published for my own money and so on, I address (and find) a few sympathizers with juries after all. I emphasize one more time. Now, juries are even in Russia.
Now, I shortly mention the points at issue with regards to the USA. There, the right to a trial by a jury is guaranteed by their constitution and this right was never questioned by anybody. It is also true, that even in the USA, not everything is ideal and even there the right to a trial by a jury is explained in many ways and that is for the man or a woman standing before a court of justice to his or her disadvantage.
In the US Constitution, the right to a trial by a jury is guaranteed in all civil and criminal cases. It is thus not possible to cast a doubt upon a right of a citizen accused of a murder, that about him being "guilty", or "not guilty" decides a jury. Furthermore, nobody casts a doubt on a right of a citizen, that in his purely civil case it is a jury, which decides. I give you an example. A buyer buys a car from a seller, this car has defects. The buyer asks the seller to give him his money back and the buyer wants to withdraw from the contract. The seller does not agree. The buyer takes the seller to the court of justice and he sues the seller. This case is decided by a jury. Different situation is, unfortunately, in various fields of the law, which are not pure civil law, but belong to some of the subdivisions of civil law. This is the case, for example, of strifes, belonging to the family law. In cases of child custody, in cases who gets childern, it is the same like in postcommunist Czech republic. Judges decide, to be precise (solo) judges, (single) judges, this is judges, who act by themselves.
Other field of the law, from which the juries in the USA were outmanoeuvred, is the field of breach of traffic regulations. If you drive too fast in USA, you go before a court. You go to a court if you have a minor car accident, you drive to a street where there is a traffic sign "no entry" and so on. Of course, this is right. But, if you do not commit something all that serious, you go before a solo judge, not a jury. Of course, a person charged with a manslaughter which he caused while driving, goes before a jury. Now, what is on my mind, are the less serious violations, such as speeding and similar things. In the USA, so called traffic courts are established and these courts are courts, as we know in the Czech republic. No juries, arrogant (solo) judges (judges sitting alone), very little acquittals, most of the times guilty, guilty. Naturally, even these traffic courts are much more polite and more objective, than the average courts in the Czech republic. Traffic court in the USA has in majority of the states the power to send the defendant to jail for the time of six months at the most. Traffic courts therefore commonly impose the punishment of paying money, imposing points on the defendants driving record, public (community) service (working for the city, village, for free), but they also impose the penalty of imprisonment, even though the time spent in jail is very short, for example one month. Of course, here it is a case of violation of their constitution (US Constitution), because this constitution guarantees to everybody who is charged with a crime, right to be tried by a jury. (What is a traffic court, if it sends you to jail for up to six months than a criminal court. Different name does not change anything, it is a criminal court which handles less serious offenses commited by drivers.) Law giving assemblies of several states here infringed the US Constitution and that is by establishing the term of "traffic violation" and they proclaimed traffic courts as being courts "traffic" not "criminal." What is it, when I found myself in a courtroom and I am in a danger of jail? What kind of a court is it? Certainly it is a court criminal, no matter how we want to call it. It is absolutely clear, that if I am a professional driver and I am sentenced for a dubious car accident to four months of jail and to a loss of my driver's licence for the time of ten years, I am of that opinion, that it is a punishment exceptionally cruel and devastating. This punishment takes away from me the possibility of supporting myself, it takes away from me the possibility of making payments (of my house, car, which I need in order to get to work, garage, which I need to park my car, which I use to get to work), pay insurances (car insurance, for a car, which I use for driving to work, health insurance, which I need to have, in order to work). I am unable to make more and more payments. I think, that if I will be so burdened should be decided by a jury, not by a judge sitting alone. The Founding Fathers (founders of the US Constitution) by the constitution which they wrote meant to secure the right of the people to have their case decided by a jury, this is how the magnificent Founding Fathers meant it, without any tricks, where criminal courts are called non-criminal, only because they handle cases of traffic violations.
In the Czech republic, as I have stated, judiciary is based solely on judges (since there are no juries, and the people do not make any decisions). Many of the judges for example, do not have a driver's licence and they decide about traffic accidents (if the driver is charged with wrongdoing.) There are judges, who did obtain a valid driver's licence, but to really start to drive, it never took place. (They simply obtained a driver's licence, but they never really achieved to drive.) There are judges of the courts of appeals, who decide about the defendant's appeal, who got into a car accident and they do not have a driver's licence either. As it was mentioned, about appeals decide always three professional judges. These three judges form so caled senate. I have seen a senate already, where not even one of its members had a driver's licence. (Is it possible to be a grown man, who earns lots of money and does not have a driver's licence? I drove a car ever since I was a boy, and I got my driver's licence when I was little bit over 18 years of age.) To drive a car is one of the most basic skills, it is like reading and writing.
Now, I have just mentioned some frightening examples, why there should not exist judges sitting alone, but only decision making done by a jury. Nobody questions this right in the USA in the field of criminal law and specifically in the cases of more serious matters. However, certain practice was established, that in the case of less serious breaches of law, it is a judge sitting alone who decides and punishes the defendant, as it is in our country (Czech republic). For the time being - I hope so. In the USA, in most of the states, judge sitting alone can send somebody to jail for maximum term of six months. It is unconstitutional. Of course. To be half a year in jail, it is a big encroachment upon a life of a man or a woman. Some states even in those cases secure the right of the defendant to have his case decided by a jury and that is by incorporating this right to the constitution of their particular state or at least guarantee this right by law. The constitution of particular state, member of the union then says, that inhabitant of this state has the right for a trial by a jury, even in the case of a crime, where there is a small punishment. Of course, this is not the way how it should be, because the great Founding Fathers of the USA did not write anywhere in the US Constitution, that before a jury only serious crimes are to be decided. It is a praiseworthy effort of law-giving bodies of the several states of the USA, to grant the people these rights, which belong to them anyhow, but of which the people were stripped by courts, judges, supreme courts of some states including the highest court of the whole federacy.
Everybody, who stands before a court of justice, in some position which can not be envied, (that is as a defendant) hopes, to get justice from the jury. The jury decides, whether the defendant is guilty, or not. Should the jury decide, that the defendant is guilty, the judge imposes the punishment. Only in the cases of the most serious crimes, it is the jury again, who decides about the punishment. Procedural questions are being decided by judge. Sometimes it happens, that it is rather problematical, to decide, whether the question is procedural, or not. In a moment like this, the defendant and his defender always insist, that the question is not procedural, but it is deciding about the matter itself and make a request, that the jury is to decide, not the judge (judge sitting alone).
"Your Honour, I do not want you to decide, this question is not procedural question, it is a question in the matter itself, I want that the jury decides."
"Why, Mr. So and so, do you think, that I would decide somehow injustly?"
"No, Your Honour, we simply insist on the jury to decide." How many times this dialogue was heard in some of the courtrooms in the USA? (Of course, this is rather rhetoric question and the answer to it is this: times uncounted, many times.)
One time, when I lived in the Deep South USA, I got myself acquainted with one court case. To the courtroom of a judge nicknamed Maximum Joe was brought a man, charged with distribution of drugs. Maximum Joe had a nickname, which he had, for the reason, that he gave to everybody a maximum penalty possible. When he ran for re-election, he made himself to be heard, that he would be hard on criminals, that he throws away the prison keys, this kind of a thing. The defendant has never sold drugs before, ever in his life. He was completely flawless. He got into hard life situation and he borrowed money from loan sharks. They charged him a terrible interest. He sold his house. He sold his car. He still owed to the usurers. They gave him a choise. Sell for us one batch of drugs and we will wait a while. The man took drugs and was immediately caught by police. He confessed to the police and he was honestly sorry for what he has done. He worked with the police and he told them, how it was. He was stil charged, sent to court, where he was endangered with a high penalty, maybe fifteen, twenty years. Maximum Joe laughed at the man in the courtroom and kept telling him, that he can not wait, to give him a good time in can (jail, prison). Maximum Joe also instructed the jury, not to take into consideration, under which conditions the defendant decided to sell drugs. This is a thing which he, Mamimum Joe, is to take into consideration, when he imposes the punishment. Defense subpoenaed its witnesses. The prosecutor subpoenaed his witnesses. Final arguments took place. Maximum Joe instructed the jury, that the guilt is obvious, he asked them not to think and discuss too long, not to take into consideration the defendant's motivation. The jury came back from the jury room and its spokesman (chairman) announced to M. J. the verdict of "Not guilty". (In the Czech republic it is called "liberated of charges".) M. J. got mad, he insulted the jury in vulgar terms. He told them, that he has never seen worse jury in his life. He insisted, that he proclaims this trial as void and the defendant will be brought before a new jury. He also made a statement, according to which the defendant stays in custody until the time when...
The truth is, that the poor man was in about an hour of time released from the custody. He took all his belongings (not a lot) and he went to the opposite part of the USA (maybe he just went to another state), because already the fact, that he stood before a court of justice was a terrible warning for him. He learned a lesson. He never committed any crimes again. He drudged, to pay off his debts and simply to survive.
Defendant, who is proclaimed as "Not guilty" by a jury, is acquitted for ever. It is not possible, that the district attorney takes the case to a higher court and the case goes back to the court of first instance. Jury is dismantled, once it renders its decision. Very important thing is, that a jury does not give reasons for its decision. It can not happen, as it happens in the Czech republic, that once acquitted defendant goes back again and again to the court of justice of the first instance, until the court reverses its verdict and proclaims the defendant as guilty.
I have to proclaim, that I am a hundred percent supporter of the jury system and I hundred percen condemn a judge sitting alone system, without any exceptions what-so-ever. I am aware, that these couple of lines by far do not describe the thing. It is only some kind of a preface into a preface of the topic of juries. It is clear to me, that juries will not be re-established in my country this year. It is necessary to start with educating of adults, in order to achieve that even before departure of the so called old structures (former communists and their servants), who would surely have no use for juries, the people gain knowledge of this indispensable part of life in democratic world. I do not have to emphasize, that I welcome any help from the supporters of jury system.
(I think that juries are the highest manifestation of democracy, because it is the people, who decide, whether somebody has commited a crime or not. Country, where there are not juries, might have some sort of democracy, but it is not a full-fledged democracy. It is true, that in a one judge system might be held election, or their citizens may travel. This is not enough. Judiciary is one of the branches of political system. Without juries, there is no true democracy, because the people do not decide in one very important branch.)
To conclude this article, I ask opponents of jury system not to write me and not to try to discuss with me anything. System with no juries I really abhor. System without juries was handed down to us by communists. It is a communist holdover. The time has come to get away with it. This website has therefore one purpose: educate about juries.
JUDr. Oldřich Ševčík
In Brno, Czech Republic, 14th October 2015