Mr. Miyagi & Trials by Jury

The other day our Case-Based Learning group was having lunch to celebrate the end of our first year of medical school. Our preceptor treated us. In medicine and some other medical professions such as nursing and paramedics, they prefer the term preceptor as opposed to tutor or teacher. Though preceptors perform the same role as tutors and teachers, the term is meant to connote a deeper sense of meaning, similar to Sensei in martial arts.

According to Wikipedia:
Sensei (先生) is a Japanese honorific term that is literally translated as "person born before another". In general usage, it is used, with proper form, after a person's name, and means "teacher"; the word is also used as a title to refer to or address other professionals or persons of authority, such as clergypersons, accountants, lawyers, physicians, and politicians. or to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill, e.g., accomplished novelists, musicians, artists and martial artists. [emphasis added]
For all of its modern scientific reasoning, the profession of medicine certainly lends itself to a level of mysticism and tradition I was not expecting.

Back to our lunch. Someone brought up serving on a jury. I mentioned that once you become a doctor, you cannot sit on a jury in Ontario. People were surprised. Moreover, I said, neither could your spouse (apparently this was repealed in 1994 and only applied to spouses of lawyers, judges, and law enforcement personnel... R v Church of Scientology of Toronto, 1997 CanLII 16226 (ONCA) yet another reason why nothing here should be taken as legal, medical or any other kind of advice... ).

So, in case you're curious, here is a list of people that are not permitted to serve on juries in Canada:
From the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General's website:
  • A legally qualified medical practitioner, coroner or veterinary surgeon who is actively engaged in practice
  • A police officer
  • A firefighter regularly employed by a fire department
  • A superintendent, jailer or keeper of a prison, correctional institution or lockup
  • The warden of a penitentiary
  • A sheriff or a sheriff's officer
  • Armed forces personnel of the regular and special forces and members of the reserve forces on active service
  • A barrister and/or solicitor or a student-at-law
  • An officer of a court of justice
  • A judge or a justice of the peace
  • A member of the Privy Council of Canada, the Executive Council of Ontario, the Senate, the House of Commons or the Assembly
The theory here is that juries are supposed to represent the values and common sense of the community. That's why they must reside in the community. Additionally, there is the risk of a large class divide between judges and accused, and this is meant to mitigate that. Finally, each member of the jury is given a single vote. All are meant to be equal and there is a risk that some members would abdicate their responsibility to those with more experience or expertise in certain matters (such as law or medicine) especially if there was expert testimony in the trial.

In Canada, unlike in the United States, it is illegal for a member of the jury to discuss what occurred in the jury room, or how a jury reached its decision (Criminal Code of Canada s. 649 "Disclosure of jury proceedings").

Finally, I have heard many people express the sentiment, that they wouldn't trust their lives to people who were "too stupid to get out of jury duty." To me, there are several things wrong with this statement. First, I have never seen anyone with experience in the justice system say this. The reason for this is because the men and women on every jury I have seen, take their roles seriously. They work hard - incredibly hard - to get it right. This feeds into my second point: the statement presumes people are trying to get out of jury duty. Of course, some are and always will, but most see it as their civic duty. Without fail, everyone I know that has served on a jury has said that they would absolutely want a jury trial if they were ever accused of a crime.


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