Why does it seem like absolutely nobody wants to get picked for sitting on a trial in a jury? I have yet to meet one person who likes the prospect of having to serve jury duty. I’d personally like to experience it before I become exempt in a few years’ time once I’m admitted as a lawyer, but I feel like, chances are, that might not happen. Most of those who get summoned never end up being picked from the jury pool anyway, so I don’t understand why people hate it so much.
Yes, it may be inconvenient, but it’s ironic that society seems to place so much weight on jury trials, without making the connection that it is those of us, as members of society, that juries are comprised of! With the rise of access to news articles on-the-go via smart phones and tablets, “trial by media” is more prevalent than ever. People tend to forget that media outlets only provide a sliver of information that contribute to the whole picture. We aren’t given the same access to evidence as juries are, so it really irritates me when people try to assert that “the jury got it wrong”. People also forget the fact that juries are supposed to deliver verdicts based on the evidence provided to them. They are instructed to decide on the matters of fact, and not to make large inferences based on “gut feeling”. This is unlike how the general public tends to make their minds up about publicised trials, so perhaps it’s no wonder — besides punitive populism  — that a lot of people think that “the criminal justice system is a joke”. 
So my problem with today’s news, courtesy of the NZ Herald, is this article. I first read the 9am version, and then later, the printed copy, followed by the version which the link leads to.  Upon first reading, I wouldn’t blame anyone who might think that the judge was being a bit harsh. Then if you read it again, you might have second thoughts and think that Mr McAllister probably should have just gotten on with it and sworn himself in for jury duty. I’m not sure if that version of the article mentions, but in the 9am one, it states that Mr McAllister and his wife had only returned to the country recently. Therefore, they apparently did not have enough time to make appropriate arrangements for him to get out of his work commitments on time. Which sounded fair, except then there’s this one little sentence that quoted the judge saying, “[n]ot withstanding the explanation given by Mr Jones – the details of which you did not tell me yesterday – I’m still of the view that you failed to serve your civic duty.” The keywords being the part which I emphasised. It’s frustrating that at first glance the judge appeared to be unreasonable by imposing a 10-day jail sentence for contempt of court, when there appears to be an appropriate explanation. But the article doesn’t shed light on the exact chronology of events, or how forthcoming Mr McAllister was, with altering his work commitments.
I’m really unhappy with how this leaves us. I doubt that many people would have their knickers in a knot over this piece of news, but this is a prime example of how misleading it can be, to engage in the seemingly-innocent act of reading the newspaper! This isn’t a murder or child-abuse or other, more serious case, yet this illustrates just how “trial by media” happens. This is exactly how laymen and the general public are led to believe that they are well-informed to draw conclusions about publicised trials. When in fact we are all highly uninformed about the detailed facts of the case, and how things actually panned out. It’s no wonder everyone and their grandmothers make sweeping statements about how the legal system is antiquated or how the criminal justice system isn’t sending the right people to jail. 
1. A tangent I won’t cover here. Perhaps a topic for another day. But for the record, despite all those hours spent in sociology and criminal law classes, I’m still on the fence.
2. If I had ten bucks for every time I heard this, I could afford flights to New York again! Also, this is still Amanda’s-rambling-arena, aka blog, so I’m not going to footnote sources (although I probably easily could).
3. I’m really not that studious but I happened to be in a cafe today where the article was lying open on the table I sat at.
4. Granted, sometimes I feel like there is an ounce of truth in this, but that is also another tangent.