Are some jurors a professional liability?
It is just as well that solicitors, barristers and others involved in administering the law can buy substantial insurance against legal liabilities - the workings of our legal system can sometimes go badly wrong, and often under the most bazarre circumstances. Here is just one example: -
Many of us have been obliged at one time or another to do jury service. We have had to listen to the barristers for both the defendant and the prosecution state their cases the judge, and then we have trooped out to deliver our verdict. Many, perhaps most, of us have complained about the cost and inconvenience of doing this but at Clerkenwell Green Sessions in January of 1838 a gentleman called Wilson pushed his complaints perhaps a little too far.
As usual the jury had been sworn in, and the trial was about to begin as usual when a juror by the name of Mr Wilson raised an objection. 'I don't mind being here', he stated (or words to that effect), 'but who is going to pay me for my time and trouble?'.
The chairman of the magistrates, a certain Mr Adams, pointed out to Wilson that it was his duty as a citizen of the realm to sit in judgement upon one of his peers. This cut no ice whatsoever with Wilson, who continued to complain bitterly about how he deserved recompense for being there. It was only after a considerable time had passed, during which the rest of the people in the court became decidedly fidgety, but the case was able to proceed.
The evidence against the defendant, Mr Dickinson, was pretty conclusive. Any reasonable person would have found him guilty. However, when the jury retired to consider their verdict Wilson refused point-blank to deliver his verdict until he was promised payment. Since in those days the jury's verdict had to be unanimous this was a major stumbling block!
The foreman of the jury informed the magistrates of the situation, and the result was uproar. Wilson was summoned before the bench but once again he complained bitterly about the fact that he was not being paid. Mr Adams reminded him that he had given an oath to deliver a verdict, wherupon Wilson pointed out with a smirk that he had indeed made such an oath, but that there was no time limit on it! He was therefore willing to wait as long as necessary until someone actually promised him payment. The magistrates ordered the jury to return to a locked room to continue considering their verdict, and stated that they would stay there until a unanimous one was delivered. This caused much muttering amongst the other members of the jury who all had better things to do than sit around waiting for this interminable argument of Wilson's to be concluded. They tried persuasion with him; arguments and even pleas until one bright soul suggested that perhaps they ought to pay him themselves and be done with it. All completely illegal, of course, and the magistrates would not hear of it; however Wilson agreed to go into the jury room with the rest of the jurors and they all emerged just 15 minutes later to deliver their inevitable verdict of guilty. The whole court (except for the dfendant, of course) breathed a sigh of relief. For some unknown reason Wilson's face was wreathed in smiles.
Did his fellow jurors pay him, in order to shut him up and get on with the job? Surely not!
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