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Opinion: Juries should not have the burden of sentencing

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Many Americans utilize their right to register to vote at age 18 or sometimes even later in life. With that right, there does come some responsibility, not always for choosing a politician but for jury duty.  One juror on a high profiled case, which led to a mistrial in sentencing, is making headlines this past week. The juror prefers to be referred to as “Juror 17.” She was one of 12 jurors on the Jodi Arias case.  Arias was convicted of killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander back in 2008 after stabbing him several times and shooting him in the face in Arizona.

Sentencing went to mistrial after Juror 17 was the only holdout on sentencing Arias to the death penalty.  Juror 17 was unsure if the defendant was mentally stable. This led to her holdout and the mistrial. Juror 17 was scrutinized on her view of opposing the death penalty in the case by some members of the media, as well as individuals around the globe who have never met her. This should not be an issue for one citizen. A citizen should not be scrutinized for sentencing and have to deal with threats. Jurors have a burden of sentencing when that should not even be a burden to them in the first place. Juror 17 has a family and children and now she is public enemy number one; that is ridiculous.

This past week she participated in her first television interview in regard to the case. Juror 17 kept her identity hidden on camera. She discussed how some individuals verbally harassed her and her family on social media. There were individuals who threatened to take her life as well as conspiracy theorists who constantly harassed her. Juror 17 should not have been in the public eye in the first place because her information should not have been leaked, as it was in this case. Typically, information such as individuals names are kept private. This woman not only had the burden of deciding if an individual was guilty, but also had to contribute to sentencing. That is a lot of pressure. She was a part of the jury who found Arias guilty, and then Juror 17 had to turn around and decide sentencing.

That should not be a reality in America in any state. Why should a group of individuals have to take part in justice then have to decide penalty?  There are rumors circulating that there could be a jury misconduct trial in the mix. This is beginning to be a witch hunt. Everyone needs a scapegoat, and for this case it is Juror 17. She is being ridiculed for using her judgment in a case where Arias killed Travis Alexander. People are upset because Arias killed her boyfriend — that is understandable. Now, individuals are threatening to kill the juror? This whole situation is completely absurd. This is a perfect example of problems in our justice system. Events like these happen all the time in the U.S., but they are never reported on. A jury is there to serve the public, not be a victim. It is already bad enough the events of the death of Travis Alexander had to occur. Now this has to occur. If you are going to put that on a group of individuals, why wouldn’t it be a panel of judges or lawyers? Juror 17 is an everyday citizen. There should not be fear in the back of a citizen’s mind when they go to get the mail or take the children to school just for serving society.

I am not here to argue the death penalty. I want to shed a light on a way our system could easily be fixed. We should not put the burden of sentencing on a panel of jurors. That should be for a judge to make a decision in a second trial. There should not be one trial for both sentencing and justice. Jurors are supposed to examine evidence and make a decision on whether a crime has occurred. However, how to punish someone, especially by means of execution, should not come down to twelve individuals. You may say it is completely fair because death is being decided by a group of peers. It is not fair for an individual to go home at night and receive death threats. Individuals should not be scrutinized for serving society. This could have easily happened to any registered voter. You could be called into determine a case. Imagine being threatened by society for not deciding the punishment fitting enough for someone with questionable mental characteristics and then facing rumors of being in the defendant chair in the near future.

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