FAIRBANKS, Alaska - On July Fourth, 1776, the Fathers of our country signed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor onto a document declaring their independence from England. In the Declaration of Independence, they list out the grievances they had against the King of England. One of their complaints was not being afforded a Jury Trial.
District Attorney Joe Dallaire, Public Defender Justin Racette and Presiding Judge for the 4th Judicial District Michael MacDonald talked about the why we have a jury, what they do, and why having a diverse jury is important.
"In the documents you see over my shoulder, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, it's one of the reasons that is cited in there as to our breakup with Britain is because of the denial of the right of a trial by jury," Dallaire said.
"It was a cornerstone right at the time. It was the one aspect off the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that everybody agreed to," Judge MacDonald said.
Dalliare said that our country is set up so people make certain decisions, they elect representatives and leaders, can pass ballot measures and on of those decisions is whether someone is guilty of a crime.
"Making sure that innocent people don't get imprisoned for things they didn't do, and the fairest way to do that is for a jury of your peers to make that decision for you," Racette said.
Dellaire said our judicial system is made up of four parts, the prosecution, defense, judge and jury.
"It's essentially a four legged stool, and they are the forth leg, and if one if the legs of the stool is missing we know what happens to the stool. So it's important that people partake in Jury service and show up when they are asked to show up," Dallaire said.
"We can't serve on our own juries. The only way to give life to the right of a jury trial is to serve when you are called," MacDonald said.
One of the problems the judicial system faces is finding a diverse group of jurors, something that Judge MacDonald says helps produce better judgments.
"When you have a diverse jury, you have more honest thinking, more regulated speech, and a more serious decision making process," MacDonald said
"It's important to get people who have had diverse life experiences to come in and listen to evidence that has been put on in a case," Dallaire said.
These members of the judicial system say that jurors are vital for their jobs and anyone summoned should do their part.
"They're absolutely necessary to the process and we couldn't do it without them," Racette said.
As we celebrate our rights, we remember our duties that ensure these rights will last.