The Impact of Homosexuality on Jury BehaviorBackground of the study Homosexuality is a state whereby individuals are attracted to members of their own sex. It involves intimate relationships between same sex individuals who share their affection for each other. Females with homosexual orientation go by the term, ‘lesbians’ while men with homosexual tendencies are said to be “gay’.
Some societies and religious groups have embraced homosexuality while others strongly argue that it erodes the moral values of society. Homosexual members of society range from high profile members of society to young adolescents who are beginning to understand their biological system. Therefore, it is natural that a juror who embraces or disapproves homosexuality might find him or herself selected to execute jury duties.Jury selection is a systematic process through which individuals are randomly chosen from the society to form a jury pool, also referred to as a venire. These individuals may be selected from a multiple of lists, for example, tax rolls, electoral rolls, licensed drivers and public utility consumers, (NCJ 079687). The judge and attorneys then take the prospective jurors through a series of questions in the courtroom, in order to establish their competency with regard to the case at hand. This process is known as a ‘voir dire” whereby both the defense and the prosecution can disqualify jurors from the pool.
If from the jury pool the jury panel cannot be completed, then the courts’ clerk is supposed to send a requisition to the jury assembly area, requesting for more jurors. In case the additional jurors cannot be immediately availed, then the court is permitted to impanel a ”’tales jury”, whereby the jurors are taken to the court under the judicial order to take available qualified persons from any public sector of the society. Otherwise, the remaining prospective jurors are normally impaneled to form a jury panel that will execute its jury duty objectively.Chiang (2000) explains that sexual orientation more often than not, does not suffice as justification for a peremptory strike. He argues that the jury should be made up of a rich diversity of individuals, who have been selected from different sectors of society. Even the sexual orientation of prospective jurors can help achieve this diversity.
The reason for this is to ensure that prejudice is eliminated during sentencing, and that a fair court decision is made by the jury especially where trials involving sexual orientation are concerned. Society tends to oppose gay men more than lesbian women. This might be because naturally, women are affectionate to each other while men are not. With the gay men, their sexual orientation tends to be physically obvious reason being that the gay man with a female predisposition tends to imitate and behave in a feminine manner. It is therefore easier for a gay member of the jury to be struck of as compared to a lesbian juror, whose sexual identity or orientation may not be picked out easily.Statement of the problemIndividuals selected to join a jury panel may either accept or reject the offer with valid reasons.
However, those who do accept the job must be willing to adhere to all the set rules and procedures in order to ensure that a fair trial is conducted and that justice prevails. The selected panel is normally trained and provided with a handbook, detailing out what is expected of them. This study will analyze the impact of jury behavior on jury selection. It will concentrate on the thorny issue of homosexual behavior. The purpose of this study will be to collect and analyze information in order to give a detailed guideline on how to recruit the best possible jury panel.
The paper will also explore the issue of unfair justice for homosexuals caused by biased jury behavior. The researcher will attempt to explain society’s’ perception of homosexuality, the resulting jury bias and how these two issues affect the justice system. The paper will benefit other authors researching on the same issue, not forgetting the student fraternity.Literature reviewStewart (2001) wrote that people with various sexual orientations for example, homosexuals who may be either lesbian or gay, can without any restriction serve as jurors. It should be noted that referring to jurors’ sexual orientation does not refer to the individuals’ personal practices, but rather to their philosophies and attitudes towards homosexuality. However, a peremptory challenge or expert assistance may still be used by the defense if during the voir dire, they pick out that the prospective jurors for example, are strongly opposed to homosexual behavior. Such a jury maybe biased in a trial and hence the sentence or verdict reached, would be compromised by personal bias.According to Herald (1994), some individuals can be exempted from jury duty or alternatively decline the offer based on the nature of their jobs.
These are known as occupational exemptions, examples of which are; – politicians, doctors, firefighters and people working in the criminal justice system, like the police. The main argument for this is that vital services are offered to the community through these occupations hence the impact of their absence would be strongly felt in the community.If an individual has served in the jury about one to two years ago, he or she can be exempted from conducting jury duty. In addition single parents especially to young children may also be excused. Another possible reason for exemption is ones’ religious beliefs or ideologies. For example, if an individual feels that the trial at hand goes against their religious faith hence they cannot guarantee to remain objective, then, these may be grounds enough for exemption.For example in some parts of the of America, an individual maybe removed from the panel if he or she has legal education or is a lawyer, reason being that this individual may dominate the other jurors, and in the process influence their decision.
Again, an individual who has a felony conviction is not allowed to serve in a jury panel. Courts may excuse individuals from jury duty in the case of medical or financial difficulty or even in the case of extreme inconvenience.A majority of cases, that is, eighty five percent are either won or lost based on the jury selected, (Herald, 1994). A defendant may request for and be granted his wish to have the venue changed, where the jury pool has received extensive publicity and/or media coverage. Extensive publicity can put a lot of pressure on the jury’s’ behavior; hence the change of location would increase the chances of the defendant receiving a fair trial.Defense attorneys may strike out jurors whose background or occupation is akin to that of the accused. The justification being that these jurors might feel like they have an emotional link to the victim thus showing them empathy. There is also the issue of minority groups which might be based on gender.
These are also known as gender-neutral reasons. Depending on the jurisdiction, the attorneys may exercise a peremptory strike in order to ensure that the court decision is not compromised by gender bias or gender imbalance in the panel, (Time 1973).Attorneys pay high consultation fees for experts’ assistance in jury selection. The expert assistance applies scientific jury selection methods, which are said to empower attorneys to “fix” the jury. However, Seidman et al (1990) says that this practice is totally unpretentious.As part of jury behavior, a prospective or impaneled juror is expected to make known anything that might affect their ability to remain objective and impartial.
Examples are; the juror might know someone involved with the trial, for example they might have had a same sex relationship, or the juror might be aware of the persons’ sexual orientation. This excuse to be excused from the jury can be made either from the witness box or one can inform the judge in writing.The impaneled juror is normally required to take an oath in accordance with the religious practices of that country, and this is an exercise that must be taken seriously.
In addition, each juror must affirm that he or she will execute the assigned task faithfully and without impartially, deciding on a ruling in accordance to the evidence provided, (VLF, 2004).Homosexuals belong to a minority class that tends to be openly discriminated in the legal justice system, whereby the constitutional right to privacy to intimate relations between consenting adults, may receive disapproval. With reference to the trial in Hardwick, states have retained the statutes that outlaw homosexual acts. The result of this is that a homosexuals’ experience during a trial, can get complicated.
These problems arise from the confusion in society about the right to various sexual orientations. They are caused by mans’ negative attitude as far as homosexuality is concerned.The problem of painful justice for homosexuals may be ended by altering society’s’ attitude towards homosexuality, the question is, are people willing to change their religious, moral and social values? Members of the jury are drawn from the general society, and should be constituted of a wide cross-section of people in order to reduce jury bias against homosexual and heterosexual people.
Jury bias against a homosexual defendant, more often than not, may result in the defendant being convicted of homosexuality, rather than the actual crime committed.Again, jury bias may be observed when a witness in a trial is known to be inclined towards homosexuality. The witness may fail to be taken seriously, yet this might be irrelevant to the ongoing case. The reverse will apply even when it is a homosexual person whose rights have been violated. There are very high chances of the aggressor being acquitted or even serving a shorter time for the crime committed against a homosexual victim, for the simple reason that the jury supposed the victim as deserving of what was done to him or her.The behavior of a juror will be more positive if the juror has a gay colleague, friend or even a relative.
It has been established that jurors’ decision making is influenced by their extent of exposure to a lifestyle such as homosexuality or personal experiences as regards situations alike to the ones in the trial.Heather, says that homophobia can be used as a mitigating factor even in murder cases. It is said that homosexual advances are reason enough for one to defend oneself hence reducing the charge from first degree murder to manslaughter which has a lesser sentence.The justification for this, is that people suffering from homophobia experience fear, anger, hatred, anxiety and disgust towards homosexual persons.
This feelings consume them when a homosexual advance is made, making them lose their self-control. Homophobia is so widespread that a society may unknowingly yield a homophobic jury panel.Questioning jurors about their sexual orientations might infringe on their privacy and freedom, however, it may be allowed in a trial where sexual orientation is part of the statutory complaint.
A voir dire may be permitted where a less intrusive questioning technique has not been able to sufficiently disclose jury bias. The challenge though, is that one cannot prove if the jurors would be truthful in their responses, considering that it is not clearly defined what makes a person homosexual, bisexual or straightIn some countries like the United States today, a homosexual person does not expect to receive the same quality of justice as a heterosexual person in the same situation will receive. As a result, the biases of this society naturally carry themselves to the court room.According to Rogers (2008), jurors must observe the set rules and procedures meant to help them arrive at fair and impartial judgements that seek only the truth. These general rules dictate that member of the jury should report on time for every court session, or call the clerks’ office if they foresee a possibility of arriving late.In addition, the jury panel must listen attentively to the questions raised and responses given during the trial. Every juror must maintain confidentiality by not divulging details of the trial to witnesses, family, attorneys and friends. They are not supposed to discuss the ongoing trial even with associate jurors until all the evidence, attorneys’ arguments and the charge have all been presented.
Observance of this regulation ensures that the jurors as individuals and as a panel; do not pass judgment on the trial prior to the presentation of all the arguments and evidence.Jury behaviour may be affected by listening to the media’s’ analysis of the trial. Controversial trials bearing an angle towards sexual orientation, for example homosexuality, do tend to generate plenty of media hype thus rousing the interest of the general public. Members of the community through the media openly tend to express their view on the trial, for or against, which would compromise the jury, thus increasing chances of the court decision being biased.Other general rules involve, the dress code and wearing ones’ badge for easy identification when one is in the court house. Jurors should not write notes of the proceedings unless on instruction by the judge. They should neither keep check on other trials going on in the same courthouse, nor should they conduct their own research on law.
Hypothesis and interpretationJury behavior can be affected by numerous factors lying within the individuals chosen as prospective jurors. As we have already seen herein, jury behavior and bias does affect court decisions and sentencing. It is the duty of every state to ensure that both their citizens and foreigners get a fair trial with the correct sentencing. In order for this to happen, members of the jury must be carefully selected from a wide cross-section of society. They must be thoroughly vetted and any issue that can affect their objectivity when deliberating on the case at hand; must be disclosed and its impact on sentencing assessed. In this paper the researcher argues that homosexuality does have an impact on jury behavior.During the literature review it has come out that certain factors, also known as variables can influence jury behavior, with regard to homosexuality.
Such variables may include; religious ideologies, socialization levels of jurors. In this research therefore, the independent or input variables are; religious ideologies and the level of socialization of the juror. Jury behavior thus becomes the dependent or outcome variable of this study. Religious ideologies of prospective jurors have been identified as possible influencers of jury behavior. The teachings of most religions for example; Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hindu amongst others, condemn homosexual practices in gay men and lesbian women. These practices are said to be unnatural acts, which go against what the human body was originally intended for. Therefore in the eyes of the religious followers, these acts are already branded as a crime against the Higher Being, whom the followers ascribe to. A member of the jury, who strictly adheres to the teachings of his or her religion, would be biased in a trial with a homosexual orientation, tending to condemn the defendants based on their sexual orientation rather than on the crime they committed and the evidence produced.
Through socialization, members of society learn to accept people as they are. The more exposure an individual has in life and society, the greater their general knowledge and outlook on life. Information on homosexual behavior is easily found, on the web, social centers where these people go for leisure, in the media and even the increased openness and disclosure by individuals about their sexual orientation. It is has also become so widespread that it is no longer surprising to find out that your neighbor or friend ascribes to it.
Therefore a member of the jury who has gained exposure is likely to be more open and objective as opposed to one who has had little or no encounter with homosexual people. They are normal human beings with freedoms and rights, like you and me.Sample population The study will target professionals from different sectors of society, apart from the legal fraternity who are knowledgeable on the law. Each sector of society will be classified as a stratum. Choosing respondents from a wide cross-section of society will ensure that the views from diverse sectors of the community are well represented. The time and budgetary allocation for the project will allow the researcher to collect data from five hundred respondents, picked from fifty sub sectors of the economy. According to Adèr et al (2008), the entire population cannot be surveyed because the cost would be too high. Sampling therefore lowers the cost of research, data collection becomes faster, and since the data set is smaller it is possible to ensure homogeneity and to improve on accuracy.
The researcher will conduct a new survey in order to bridge the gap between this study and previously done studies. Societal values are changing everyday because of issues such as education, the web, technology and media freedom. Therefore, to conduct a new survey every time is ideal for the sole reason that up to date information will be obtained and changing social values and trends in society can be monitored. The increase in the numbers of homosexual persons in the world today means that more and more pressure will be put on the legal framework and the judicial systems to continuously amend the laws in order to cater for their rights and freedoms.Research procedureA stratified sampling procedure will be put into use. It is applicable where the population embraces a number of distinct categories, called “strata.” Each stratum will then be sampled as an independent sub-population, individuals will be randomly selected. The reason for this choice of sampling is because it will enable the researcher establish the exact views of each sector of society instead of bunching the respondents together.
Questionnaires will then be prepared in order to collect data from the chosen individual respondents. The questionnaires have been chosen because they can be filed for future reference.In order to ensure that the responses are obtained, appointments will be booked in advance so as to set the pace for face to face interviews.
Otherwise, for some of the contacted respondents, the questionnaires will be sent electronically to them. Once all the primary and secondary data has been collected, it will be analyzed then interpreted. The findings will then be presented in a pictorial format that will include graphs and charts, but it will also be accompanied by a descriptive format that will explain the findings.ConclusionJury bias against homosexuals works against this disadvantaged minority group. They are humans with a right to be in this world despite their sexual orientation. We do not have to accept their choice, but we have to re-examine our laws to protect them where and when their fundamentals rights are violated.
Incidences of rape do occur to both homosexual and heterosexual individuals, just as it occurs to “straight individuals”. Members of the jury must remember that their decisions and verdicts can alter an individuals’ life, hence personal views on sexual orientation should be put aside and justice based on the evidence produced and attorneys’ arguments must prevail.ReferencesAder J.
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