I Wish Justice Truly Were Blind


I Wish Justice Truly Were Blind

That would be expensive, yes, but much more fair

DALLE 2 image of blindfolded jurors by author

Imagine if you could have a trial where neither the judge nor the jury only knew facts without knowing the specific people or companies involved, so the defendant is always a faceless John Doe or an unnamed company.

We certainly don’t do that now. We say that everyone is equal under the law, but obviously that isn’t true. The rich and powerful often get different treatment than the poor and powerless. The “jury of peers” may not be peers at all.

Donald Trump is a polarizing figure. Can he really ever get a fair trial when almost everyone has very strong opinions about him, positive or negative?

So how could we fix that? Masks and voice garbling? A black man in a mask is still black, a white man in a $3,000 suit is obviously not poor. A man speaking broken English will be seen differently than a native speaker. Prejudice and racism can’t be hidden that easily. Only completely blind justice could prevent that.

Two trials

You’d need a traditional judge and jury who would decide what facts could be passed to the blind jury and how identifying information would be obfuscated. During the initial trial, lawyers could act just as they do now, but the jury would only be preparing facts to present to the blind judge and jury. The traditional judge would be responsible for making sure that the blind jury would get no hint about the people or companies involved. AI tech might be able to help with this part.

It would cost more and take longer, yes. But it would be so much more fair. The blind jury wouldn’t know if they were deciding the guilt of a famous movie star or a poor person, a white man or a black woman, someone good looking, charming, articulate or not. They wouldn’t know if a company was an international conglomerate a a local one man shop.

The blind jury would hear testimony, perhaps even see video with faces blurred and voices disguised. They’d handle evidence, read redacted documents and so on. The only changes made to anything would be to protect identification and discrimination.

It would be fair. It would also protect the blind judge and jury as no one would know that the case had been passed to them. They’d pass their judgement back to the traditional judge who would deliver the results.

It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? A white, middle class reader might think this an utter waste of time and perhaps it would be for them. But many minorities might agree that their trial would benefit from a system like this. A woman who had been sexually assaulted might also agree. A celebrity might, or might think they’d be better off being known.

It could never be perfect. People being what they are, judges and jurors might be able to infer possibly discriminatory information. That could affect the results just as it does now.

I suppose that we’d never even consider this, but I do wish that we could.

Maybe somebody could make a TV show that would present real cases to a jury with possibly prejudicial information removed. We’d watch the deliberations and might be surprised at the results. I might watch that, would you? It might show us if this idea has any value in the real world.

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