I have become wary of jury trials. It seems that over the last couple of decades, Americans have collectively become a bunch of terribly ignorant, undereducated people. I have noticed a complete degeneration of the ability of most Americans to assess information using an analytical thought process. I personally believe that has to do with the degredation of our public educational system and the fact that expectations of academic achievement have been dumbed down to accommodate the lowest common denominator in our society. In other words, excellence in academic achievement is not what it used to be because we are all compelled to accept poor performance as adequate so that we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings and so that underachievers can still perceive themselves as achievers.
I believe that the end result of this degradation of our educational system is that a majority of American people can no longer think anaytically and that has a devastating impact on our system of trial by jury. When a jury is picked, the potential jurors always recite the platitudes…yes, I believe that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty..yes, I believe that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But, actuallly applying those principles while analyzing the evidence and the law in their deliberations is another matter altogether.
When those jurors are presented with contradictory evidence of a detailed nature and when they are then instructed by the judge to consider that detailed evidence while applying it to the elements of complex criminal law statutes, those same jurors are simply not up to the task. They do not know how to go about dissecting complex information and examining it critically. So, they devolve into an emotional analysis of the evidence and the possilbe guilt of the defendant and are comfortable with themselves, believing they have given their best effort at analyzing all that was put before them. But, they actually have failed miserably at acheiving any level of thoughtful, objective analysis of the evidence or the issues. The problem is that they, the jurors, are too ignorant of their own limitations to recognize that they are unable to, and have failed to, indulge in thoughtful analysis.
There is a principle called the Dunning-Kruger effect. It is the simple principle that ignorant people are too ignorant to know that they are ignorant, and, they, therefore, believe that they are capable when they seek to perform a given task. The fact of the matter is that they are failing miserably at their efforts, but they have no basis for making an objective assessment of their own efforts, so they, therefore, belive they are doing much better than they are. It is called illusory superiority.
I personally believe that Americans generally, including trial jurors, suffer, in significant numbers, from illusory superiority. Jurors, in particular, smugly believe they are working hard and successfully as they apply their brains while deliberating, but the sad truth is that they are simply incapable of a thorough, sifting analysis of complex information. The end results of this deficiency are some bizarre outcomes in jury trials. Just ask any seasoned litigator, prosecutor or defense counsel, and if they are truthful, you’ll find that most such litigators will tell you there is absolutely no method for predicting the outcome of jury deliberations. We attorneys anticipate, in advance, the complete failure of a jury to reach a logical outcome.
So, if you can, do not trust your fate to a collection of middle Georgia citizens sitting in a jury box. In a civil or a criminal case, you’re likely to be grievously disappointed with the result.
For those folks who want to know more about the Dunning-Kruger effect, let me give you the following quoted synopsis,
From the Wikipedia:
“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor
decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the
metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer
from illusory superiority rating their own ability as above average, much
higher than it actually is……”
And, by the way….I’m not a politically correct sort of guy, so I really don’t care if I’ve offended someone with my opinions in this particular blog.