Jury duty

I was recently called to do such civic duty.They called a large number of people,and then allowed the lawyers to choose among us based on our life experiences.A man next to me was chosen ,but he excused himself “for religious reasons”.
I was one of the chosen ones and so served as a jury member, judging another human being. How does the story in the Bible about the prostitute about to be stoned by other sinners apply here? In modern times should Christians refrain for jury duty?Should I have opted out for religious reasons,like the gentleman I mentioned above?
I will appreciate your comments and experiences on this subject. Thanks.Tam

As a jury member, you aren’t judging a human being; you’re judging facts/evidence. It is the judge who actually applies the penalty prescribed in the law. All the jury does is to say, “Yes, the evidence convinces me that the defendant is guilty,” or, “No, I don’t buy it.”


Actually, the jury decides the penalty also.:frowning:
Have you served as a juror yourself. How was your experience?It is a huge responsibility.
We debated a lot inside the little jury room since jurors come to serve with their own biases.

The jury suggests the penalty. The judge can accept it, or modify it.

Christy Beth is right, and even then not always. There are jurisdictions and courts where the jury has no say on the penalty.

I have never had jury duty, but if I were called, I would serve, but chances are that if I were questioned about my beliefs, I would not be chosen.


The stoners in the Bible were not asked by Jesus to decide on the qualifications of the evidence.Whether they bought it or not.They were told not to judge (or condemn?), except if they were free of any sins themselves.
And Jesus,the only one free of sins let her go.
But we could not do that with our criminals, could we?:eek:
So what are the implications of having a judicial system then?I am confused.

Actually, that varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

For example, in Texas, at the accused’s election, either the jury or the judge determines punishment. In capital murder cases in Texas, it’s at the prosecutor’s election (If the prosecutor elects to seek the death penalty, then the jury decides punishment. IF the state doesn’t seek the death penalty, then sentence is automatic life.)

In other jurisdiction, sentencing is almost always done by the judge. In the federal system, the judge determines the punishment (except in capital cases and other special cases where there is a need for fact finding.).

Other states are different. In some states, the jury determines punishment. In some, the judge determines punishment. In others, the jury’s determination is advisory with the judge making the final judgment. I remember hearing in my law school criminal procedure class that Texas is unique in that the jury (when the defendant elects) has final say.

I do not think the passage applies at all. Jurors are not allowed to use stones in execution of their judgement. The Church teaches:

2239 It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.

2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:

Unless one has a personal objection of conscience (which would be beyond Church teaching, BTW), then one needs to follow the law in reference to jury duty. One might be able to do this in the case of a death penalty case based on 2242

The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel.

but this is by no means the teaching of the Church

Most people have no problem judging the actions of the children and disciplining them when they do wrong. The parents judge the rightness or wrongness of the child’s behavior. (Parents who don’t do that may end up with children who sit at the defendant’s table.) That being said, I see no reason why one would have any objection to sitting on a jury and similarly judging whether someone broke the law.

JimG, then when in our modern times (what occasion. give example) is Jesus’ teaching applicable? .The -do not pass judgment teaching-,if in your opinion we, imperfect people, can judge other person’s faults and wrongdoings?:confused:

A distinction has to be drawn between judging people and judging behavior. In this passage, the woman is in imminent danger of death when Jesus stepped in. It was her life He was protecting, not her sin. In the case of a person who had committed a crime, say theft or violence or another violation of the law, justice still has to be served. Restitution has to be paid, jail time served, etc., for the good of the person and the whole society. If you’re sitting on the jury of a homicide case, you would have a moral duty to do what you could to prevent the person from being executed, but if you thought he was guilty you would still have to say so. (I could be wrong here, but I think I’m on the right track.)

Think of it this way: If I violated the law and was assigned a fine and community service, the Church wouldn’t tell me not to pay my fine or do my service. Why would it make sense to tell a judge not to assign those penalties? Why would it tell a person not to sit on a jury?

When you sit on a jury, you’re not weighing the value of a person, you’re deciding whether the evidence proves that his or her behavior was a violation of the law. I don’t know of any Church teaching that would tell you not to do that.

A juror is called upon to determine whether a person is guilty of the crime or crimes which they are charged with. Jurors do not determine the state of a person’s soul. Jurors may, in some cases, be called upon to recommend punishment as well. The punishment is is a civil penalty, not a spiritual one.

Serving on a jury is an important social duty an moral imperitive. To refuse to serve on a jury because of so-called “religious reasons” is nothing less than a dodge. If one truly believes that his/her religious convictions lead them to believe that serving on a jury is somehow immoral, that believe is opposed to social justice in every way.

Stoning was capital punishment,killed the body.Had nothing to do with the soul.
In their law,prostitutuin was a crime,and they convicted the woman and intended to kill her.

I think that rpp has already answered the question. We are called upon all the time to judge the behavior of others, including when serving on a jury. We can judge, for example that someone committing adultery or fornication or theft is objectively commiting a wrong action. We have no way, however, to judge the state of their soul, as we cannot read their minds, heart, and conscience.

A jury is called upon to judge the facts of a case–e.g., did the defendant commit this crime? They are sometimes even called upon to judge whether or not particular malice was involved. In doing so, they are not judging the person, but making a decision based on the facts presented. The juror can’t condemn even a serial killer to hell; in fact, they hope that repentance will lead the person in the opposite direction.

The practical application of Jesus’ admonition is in every day life, where we can observe actions, but not read hearts.

I might add that a person who has serious moral objections to a death penalty case, for example, should decline to serve on a jury where that is a possibility. (The lawyers would likely unearth any such objection, anyway.)

Yes, but—

Let’s make two assumptions. First, assume that the threshold of CCC ¶ 2267 for legitimate recourse to the death penalty cannot be met in the United States. Second, for the time being, assume for sake of argument that we were having this conversation before* Sumner v. Shuman*, eliminated all automatic death sentences.

Now suppose that you work as a nurse in a hospital that requires, as a prerequisite to a doctor carrying out an abortion, that a nurse certify that the patient is, in fact, pregnant. A doctor decides to abort; you are asked to meet the threshold requirement.

The nurse, in that scenario, does not perform the abortion, but by “finding a fact” critical to the execution of the abortion, she is a but-for cause of the abortion, an essential cog in what Justice Blackmun called the “machinery of death.” Is that not material cooperation in abortion? And if so, is there any way to distinguish that from the seemingly-identical posture of the juror in a mandatory death penalty case?

Now, of course, the mandatory death penalty was an oddity before Sumner and by it was extinguished. Judges always retain the power to choose a lesser sentence. Yet that sentence is still absolutely conditioned on the threshold finding of fact by the jury (that’s the teaching of Apprendi and its progeny—a judge cannot, for example, “upgrade” an otherwise death-ineligible defendant to death based on a sentencing factor that hasn’t been found by the jury, as happened in Ring). Is the intervening discretion of the judge enough to break the juror’s chain of moral responsibility, such that she at least affords mediate material cooperation in the death penalty?

It doesn’t.

In general, no. In most Western countries, the adversarial system give reasonable safeguards for a fair trial.

In capital cases, if one cannot in good conscience sentence someone to death, then one is obligated to state this on the jury questionnaire. That may eliminate the person from the jury pool during voir dire. If one is still selected, then one would be obligated to follow one’s conscience and refuse to sentence someone to death, even if it results in a hung jury/mistrial.

I don’t see how you could have claimed such reasons when the Church does not have any teaching against serving on a civil jury.

Not in the UK. The jury returns the verdict saying the number of jurors (obviously not naming them) who voting for guilty and the number who voted for not guilty. But they have nothing to do with the sentence, that is usually done several weeks afterwards after the judge takes into account reports that are then compiled on the person’s character etc. The Judge makes that decision. I served on a jury in the UK once, about 15 years ago.

Gentle observation - this is an old thread. Would it not be better to start a new one?

God bless you.

So it is. It’s so easy to miss that. Thanks for pointing that out.

I inferred from pnewton’s amusing signature—with the cat biting the hand reaching for the “new thread” button—that new threads were disfavored when there is an existing one that is on-point and which has not been closed.

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