[EDITORIALS]Doubts about a jury systemThe Committee for the Reform of the Judicial System under the Supreme Court has decided to introduce a jury system, a compromise between the U.S.-style and Continental legal systems, which will allow people’s participation in judicial proceedings in 2007. When a defendant charged with a serious crime, such as murder, prefers to be tried with the participation of a jury, the court will allow a group of “judiciary participants,” composed of five to nine members, who will not only present a verdict but also give their opinion on appropriate punishment.
The system that allows people’s participation in court proceedings has the merit of enhancing the credibility of trials and making them more democratic. By keeping court proceedings to the level of common sense, it will help increase the credibility of trials. Despite such ideals, some side effects are appearing in countries where it is implemented. The American jury system costs time and money. Therefore, controversy over “money makes innocence” never stops. The Continental system is criticized for being nothing but a formality since the judge exercises absolute influence.
When the jury system is introduced, as people who have no expert knowledge on law take part in court proceedings, there is danger that trials will be influenced by public opinion. One representative case is the O. J. Simpson trial in which the defendant, who was sentenced to pay an indemnity for the victims by a civil court, was given a verdict of not guilty by the jury. According to the judiciary reform committee, the judges will not be bound by the opinion of the participants in the early stages. But we doubt whether the judges can be free from juries’ influence when their opinion is unanimous.
The essence of a participatory judicial system lies in the neutrality of participants. In Korea, where there are civic groups with big voices, they could intervene in a trial systematically and the damage would be enormous. Their influence on the legislature and the administration will now reach the judiciary. So the introduction of a jury system should be weighed carefully.
Selecting participants by random sampling from the residence registry is the right method. But considering the strong tradition of cronyism among people related by blood, region and schools, it is doubtful that we can be free from such influences. Perhaps we should wait until we are sure the system can be workable.