Jury service

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Jury service

Postby DRNow » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:31 pm

Hi everyone. Apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere but I couldn't see anything on the topic so here it goes...
I've just been notified that I'm going to be called for jury service at some point in the next 3 weeks, which I feel rather ambivalent about. On one hand I'm happy to be involved in what I consider to be an important part of the democratic process, but on the other, I have a real sense of unease about it, based largely I suppose on the possibility that I might contribute towards someone else's suffering. Now I'm certainly not looking to get out of it, but I noticed that excusal can be applied for by people who "are a practising member of a religious society or order the tenets or beliefs of which are incompatible with jury service". So I'm interested to hear if anyone thinks being a Buddhist is in any way incompatible with jury service?

:anjali:
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Re: Jury service

Postby Ben » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:43 pm

DRNow wrote:So I'm interested to hear if anyone thinks being a Buddhist is in any way incompatible with jury service?

No.
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Re: Jury service

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:59 pm

In general, no. However, there are certain cases where it might be best to be excused. I was called for jury duty for a pimp who allegedly killed a prostitute, beating her over the head with a golf club and dumping her body in the desert. The prosecutors wanted the death penalty. I was asked if I had any objections to the death penalty and I said I did. They asked me what my religion was and if the death penalty was incompatible with my religious beliefs. I answered that I am Buddhist and that it is incompatible. I was released from jury duty. If he is guilty, the defendant is certainly a terrible person, but I wouldn't want to be compelled to contribute to sentencing a person to death. (In Nevada juries determine guilt and innocence and determine the sentence.)
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Re: Jury service

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 22, 2013 1:53 am

David N. Snyder wrote:In general, no. However, there are certain cases where it might be best to be excused. I was called for jury duty for a pimp who allegedly killed a prostitute, beating her over the head with a golf club and dumping her body in the desert. The prosecutors wanted the death penalty. I was asked if I had any objections to the death penalty and I said I did. They asked me what my religion was and if the death penalty was incompatible with my religious beliefs. I answered that I am Buddhist and that it is incompatible. I was released from jury duty. If he is guilty, the defendant is certainly a terrible person, but I wouldn't want to be compelled to contribute to sentencing a person to death. (In Nevada juries determine guilt and innocence and determine the sentence.)

Hi David,
I understand where you are coming from, and in your situation I would have answered the question in the same way as I am too morally opposed to the death penalty. In Australia we don't have the death penalty and hence I consider jury duty civil service that is not incompatable with being a Buddhist.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Heraclitus


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Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

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Re: Jury service

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:03 am

DRNow wrote:Hi everyone. Apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere but I couldn't see anything on the topic so here it goes...
I've just been notified that I'm going to be called for jury service at some point in the next 3 weeks, which I feel rather ambivalent about. On one hand I'm happy to be involved in what I consider to be an important part of the democratic process, but on the other, I have a real sense of unease about it, based largely I suppose on the possibility that I might contribute towards someone else's suffering. Now I'm certainly not looking to get out of it, but I noticed that excusal can be applied for by people who "are a practising member of a religious society or order the tenets or beliefs of which are incompatible with jury service". So I'm interested to hear if anyone thinks being a Buddhist is in any way incompatible with jury service?

:anjali:


If the punishment at stake is the death penalty, it is incompatible.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Jury service

Postby corrine » Sun Jun 23, 2013 5:04 pm

I will not serve on a jury. At my age, thankfully I no longer have to. But the reason is that I cannot be responsible for incarcerating another human being who may well be innocent. Causing him/her untold pain and suffering. Even if guilty, American prisons do not rehabilitate, they are there to punish. Worse crimes occur in prison than out. A friend of mine went to prison for a petty crime. Had he lived in another county, he would have been given probation but where he lived, where I live, severe punishment is the norm. Long story short, he came out a bitter, broken criminal who never recovered and went on to a life of real crime. He died young and badly.

Were our prisons set up to help and fix and make a positive difference, I would have no problem with being involved. But as they are cess pools of crime set up to make a being's life hell on earth with no purpose except to make others feel as though they have taken their revenge, I would do anything to stay uninvolved. If made to serve, I would probably set a lot of guilty persons free because I doubt if I could be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of someone's guilt. The Innocence Project has freed many unjustly convicted. It is not a aberration that we regularly convict the innocent. Particularly minorities. We are suspicious of all that do not look as we do or believe as we do.

So, for me, serving on a jury would be an act of immorality.

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