Clearly, according to most ethical systems, including the one that has influenced the laws in the US, it is my duty, so i must go. I do not subscribe to an ethical system that is based on right/wrong and duty, though. I subscribe to an ethics of care, as developed by Nel Noddings. Such a system looks at the totality of a situation, tries to understand what
went on when someone does something that hurts someone else, most importantly ethics of care brings empathy and compassion to decisions.
The judge also mentioned empathy. She said that the US court system tries to bring empathy to a case. Is that so? Well, what is empathy? According to Brené Brown, there are “four defining attributes of empathy: (a) to be able to see the world as others see it; (b) to be nonjudgmental; (c) to understand another person’s feelings; and (d) to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings.” As a juror, i am supposed to decide the guilt or innocence of a person (i’ve been assigned to a criminal trial). That does not require that i empathize with them – understand why they did something. It requires the highest part of the human brain, as the video said, which was shown to us 45 minutes after our service began: Rational evaluation.
Aside from this, though, the primary issue i am struggling with is: What do i concretely do when i am asked to enforce a system that is purported as justice that i find deeply unjust. That system is enforcing order, not bringing justice. Maybe it would be most ethical for me to refuse to be on a jury?
Then i thought, though, well, if i were a defendant wouldn’t i want someone on the jury who thinks this order system sucks? So, maybe the most ethical thing for me to do is to say as little as possible during jury selection and hope i sneak through without having mentioned these ethical qualms. Would that be the most ethical?
What about my fellow jurors then? The jury deliberation would surely be slowed down by someone who questions the system rather than administering it. Would that be fair to them?
And, per the juror instructions, i am supposed to be unbiased (or as unbiased as i can be). If i question the system, i am biased for the defendant. Would that be an ethical problem?
Finally, what will i do when i am supposed to judge the guilt or innocence of the person when they clearly have done what they did and i can see how their circumstances lead to it? Is that innocence? Is that guilt? I cannot see myself calling anyone guilty. And yet what if they killed someone? That’s when i hit the brink wall: We need a new system, one that is truly just and this cannot happen if that system is imbedded in the
same injust system – supercapitalism
– that we currently live in. So, where does that leave me?
If i refuse to serve, i suspect i could face the dreaded fine or jail sentence. Then what? Well, i suppose i could muse on that bridge when i get there. Clearly, if i were to speak up and refuse – rather than hope that the attorneys ask me the questions to which my answers will very likely get me excused – this would be an act of civil disobedience. Am i ready for that? Would that be consistent with ethics of care?
I don’t have answers, so if you have ideas or would like to contribute by raising more questions, please share in the comments section below!