Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Justice, Trust, Us and Them

Posted on | July 6, 2011 | No Comments

I did not wish to comment yesterday on the non-responsibility verdict handed by the jury in the Guy Turcotte trial. Just like any parent, this case moves me very deeply and beyond my immediate visceral reactions, I wanted to draw more important lessons from these events.

Social networks are now filled with indignant comments wishing the worst torments on Dr Turcotte and scornful of our justice system. Some commentators in the media have for their part tried to explain the arguments of the jury and defence lawyers.

Even though I am shocked by the verdict, I have not read the transcripts of the trial (nor do I have access to them, in any case). I strongly doubt that the majority of people who posted harsh comments in the last few hours had access to them as well. Rationally I can understand that I have missed some of the finest and more crucial arguments presented in the courtroom.

But we are not purely rational beings. Quite to the contrary we clearly depend on emotions to make judgements, especially good judgements.  Yet what little information was broadcast in the media, and the strong emotional charge created make us realize that indignation was not only understandable, it was obviously predictable.

Some believe that the trust of citizens towards our justice system could be affected. This is apparently true. This trust, this also the trust in others, in eleven strangers who represented us on the jury. In order to heal this breach of confidence, we must not necessarily overrule the verdict (this would make us trust the system even less) but explain with details what motivated it.

Our justice system should include a responsibility towards citizens: educating them. This responsibility is essential to maintain credibility, which is in turn essential to maintain the rule of law, one of the pillars of democracy. Beyond shock, anger, sadness, we need to move on to understanding. Explanations must be given, they must be given quickly, and they must be given with a consideration for the emotions that the public is going through.

I ask nothing more than to believe in the wisdom of my peers on the jury. But now we need help to understand..



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