Three cheers for Theodora Dallas


The Juror imprisoned for checking Google should be applauded

There is no surprise that the full weight of the law has crashed down on Theodora Dallas. A court of law is one of the few places where knowledge is still power. The ridiculous idea that the legal profession knows what is best and should be allowed to continue unquestioned and unchallenged must be maintained, otherwise where would it all end?

Henry Fonda in the film 'Twelve Angry Men'

Boy, would he have been in trouble....Henry Fonda in the film 'Twelve Angry Men'

I have been on two juries and I have been amazed at what the advocats are allowed the get away with. Essentially they are allowed to lie by omission. In the cases I heard, both prosecution and defence did their best to put their own points of view as unquestionable facts and reduce the opposing views by undermining and smearing. Neither seemed remotely interested in the truth or, for that matter, in their clients. Winning the case was the point. The only point.

So what is a juror to do? I sat there, bewildered, knowing less at the end of the cases than I knew at the beginning. Were they guilty? I don’t know. Fortunately both cases fell through, but I think I would probably just have gone with the flow…

This is a tragedy. Not least because in my experience jurors are desperate to take their responsibilities seriously. They may have resented the call and have done whatever to get out of it, but once selected, they see this as a very important civil duty and are determined to complete it to their best ability. Sadly, after only a few hours of advocacy, they start to realise what they are up against. These lawyers are not here to fathom the truth of the case, they are here to bamboozle and obfuscate. Disinformation rules. They call irrelevant witnesses, yet avoid ones who could establish facts that they do not want heard. They focus on elements which could not possibly have any bearing and skip over real issues. They control the distribution of knowledge as if it were gold in a miser’s purse.  That is their job.

The idea that justice would be tainted if jurors knew the full facts is both patronising and laughable. Justice is tainted by jurors being spoonfed half-truths by the lawyers. The idea that jurors should only be allowed to know what they lawyers tell them about a case gives the lawyers a power they should never have had. When the jury system began, there was no hint that the jury should operate in this kind of vacuum, because it would have been impossible. This was a time when a town might have 10,000 inhabitants, travel was limited and everyone knew each other. When the judge came to town and the court was established, the case would be well known, the victim would be known, the accused would probably be known and the jury would have good idea if he ( or she ) had done it. The main idea behind the British jury system was that people were being judged by their peers – that society as a whole was deciding their fate – not some whimsical monarch, or magistrate. Lawyers withholding facts from the decision makers was never the intention.

So three cheers for Theodore Dallas. An academic trained to question and probe, there is no surprise that she found being spoon-fed by these officers of justice intolerable. Let’s bring back the idea that the legal system should first establish the truth before moving on to justice. Allow jurors to do their own research, indeed encourage it. Then allow them to have questions asked on their behalf so that they can get to the bottom of a case. Juries are the sole representatives of the people in a court room. They should hold the most power.



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