Richard Frazier’s letter expresses precisely the frustration many people today experience regarding the court system. I feel terrible for Mrs. King’s family and can’t begin to understand the agony they have experienced. This situation, however, really requires us to rethink two things: The jury system and the death penalty.
The law has become so complex, the science of defense and prosecution so bastardized, with the psychological game playing that occurs, that the average “jury of your peers” has little chance of making an informed, unbiased decision. From the acquittal of O.J. Simpson to the acquittal of a woman the jury felt sorry for in an assault on a Rutland police officer, the American jury system is antiquated, suspect and unworkable.
We need to replace the citizen jury with panels of three to six trained judges who understand the intricacies of the law and can see through the shenanigans of advocate lawyers and prosecutors, and apply the law that has become complex beyond the understanding of the average “peer.”
In the Fell case, the juror in question wanted more information than the court was prepared to give him and so he sought it out on his own. Was his quest for the information he felt he needed to render an accurate and fair verdict wrong or were the restrictions on factual information available to him wrong? Under our current system, Judge Sessions made the only decision he could but the question then becomes what is wrong with our current system?
In regard to the death penalty, Mrs. King’s family wants the maximum available punishment to be imposed and I don’t blame them. The safeguards in our system that are designed to prevent the execution of an innocent person ensure that these cases linger for decades. If the maximum punishment available was life without parole, Fell would have already sunk into obscurity in some prison far away and to the extent possible, Mrs. King’s family would not be facing this again 14 years later.
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