Most Americans know barely anything about our judicial system, and the civil jury is one of its least understood features. Even groups involved with law-related education focus little attention, if any, on civil juries. Few probably know that the right to jury trial was a key issue over which the American Revolution was fought, or that the failure to secure the right to civil jury trial in the Constitution almost caused its defeat. And who really understands how civil juries check corporate, government and professional irresponsibility?
Forget law schools. No group seems better equipped to provide this kind of “education” than civil jurors themselves. Study after study shows that immediately after a trial, jurors have very strong impressions about their experiences. Almost all will say the experience was positive and that the system works well. (See more here.) But understandably, you won’t find many civil jurors willing to talk to the media about their experiences after a trial. Actually, it’s probably more rare that news reporters would even care what a juror had to say in the typical civil case.
So how great is it to see a bunch of news reports today quoting jurors who recently served in the very high-profile Erin Andrews “peep hole” case against Marriott and her stalker, particularly juror Terry Applegate? News outlets from NBC News to People Magazine took the time to interview her as to why the “jury of five men and seven women on Monday ordered [stalker] Michael Barrett – who served more than two years in prison for the 2008 incident – to pay the Fox Sports reporter about $28 million with the companies that operate the Nashville Marriott paying the remaining $27 million.” Here’s what she told The Tennessean:
"We considered not only the impact [the verdict] had on Erin Andrews, but also the message, I guess you might say, that might be provided to the hotel industry overall ... I truly appreciated the opportunity to do it, although it was difficult and lengthy, I think it’s true of every juror. We all remarked about how impressed we are about our judicial system here in the United States."
Indeed, more than any other single institution, juries give everyday people the chance to participate in government, which enhances their regard for the American system of justice. As this case shows, civil jurors are competent, responsible and rational, and their decisions are not arbitrary or emotional, but reflect continually changing community attitudes about corporate responsibility and accountability.
In her statements, Ms. Applegate thanked Erin Andrews for bravely bringing this case. We certainly agree and thank her dedicated legal team, as well. But let’s thank juror Applegate, too. She has helped us all understand - the system really works.