Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Should the Jury Foreperson be Automated?

We live in a day of technological advancement. Every couple of months some new gadget comes out that will revolutionize our world. On September 9th, Apple announced its new products including the Apple Watch. This product will not only change fashion, but it could change the medical profession as well. Although this technology has the potential to change the medical profession, many medical professionals are skeptical about its impact. Similarly, technology has the potential to change the legal profession and juries in particular, but I am skeptical about this potential impact.

In An Android in the Jury Room, Matthew Donigian suggests that certain methods of choosing a jury foreperson can bias the jury and "inject inequity into the system." Because the jury foreperson often yields great power in the method of deliberation and the outcome, the foreperson must be chosen carefully. Donigian offers an alternative to a human foreperson. He suggests an automated one.

In order for the foreperson to be automated, the foreperson must be able to hear the deliberations, process what is said, and use this information to direct the discussion. Apple claims that Siri understands what you say and knows what you mean. If a phone can do this, then an automated foreperson can hear deliberations, but hearing and processing are very distinct. I can talk to Siri, but Siri often misunderstands me. Just yesterday I asked Siri, “Am I happy or sad?” and Siri responded that she did not know what I meant. When I asked again she said, “I’d rather not say.” This was a simple question that only needed a one word response, yet Siri was unable to provide an answer to my question. In many ways this question is more complicated than a one word response would indicate, but this is exactly the problem. If one simple question has a complicated answer that not only involves hearing the words, but also understanding their tone and observing the associated body language, how much more does a question posed to the jury require?
With this possibility comes a new round of questions. If the constitution guarantees the right to a trial by a jury of ones peers, will an automated foreperson violate the constitution? Will an automated foreperson be more efficient than a human foreperson? Will the bias that a human foreperson exhibits be lessened by automation?
Although this technology has not been created, we must make an initial decision on whether or not to pursue creating an automated foreperson. This will be a costly and time consuming task, so it will not be worth the substantial time and effort required, if the technology cannot be efficiently and constitutionally used. 

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