There are discussions, happening within governments and the judiciary, as to the relevance of juries in the twenty first century. Are twelve good men and women, which used to be ‘twelve good men and true’ prior to women getting things like the vote and places in the judicial system, still necessary to the workings of justice today. The roots of our judicial system go back to the times of ancient Greece and Rome, some two and a half millennia ago. In Athens and Rome citizens would vote on the guilt or innocence of those being tried.
The Digital Jury: Online and Global
We in the West have been voting on juries in much the same way ever since. The argument in legal circles has centred on situations where jurors, having no specialist knowledge, being asked to sit in judgement upon highly complex cases which really demand extensive background information and training. The jury is the only democratic part of our judicial systems, the rest being run by an exclusive elite in lawyers and judges. When considering the impact of technology upon the legal system we have seen in-camera trials using video screens. Could the digital jury be the next step?
The trouble with digital technology and the online realm through social media has already become a thorn in the justice system’s side. Leaving jurors at home to decide on the merits or failings, guilt or innocence, of differing sides in a legal dispute only really compounds the problems of restricted information findings its way into the public sphere. The technology, like procedure and compliance software already exists to make a digitalised jury a working reality. I can see it having a ready-made purpose in international trials where individuals can give evidence from their own countries, without the expense and hassle of travelling to another country.
An online digital presence in these circumstances could be very useful to the economical workings of justice. Similarly, this could work within countries, affording witnesses the chance to give evidence without leaving their homes or states. You could still lock-up jurors and witnesses within their own homes or at specially run institutions to prevent them from releasing restricted information until the trial was over. The debate continues as to whether this lock-down on courtroom evidence is really necessary in the twenty first century. The diffusion of influence through the continuing demise of traditional media platforms makes an argument for the dropping of the jury black-out.