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Demanding justice in the jury

Just Us for Justice is the name of a discussion panel organized by Holt student Kendra Davies. The panel occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Joining the panel was Ryan Williams, Assistant State Attorney, Marc Consalo, J.D., and Julian C. Chambliss, Ph. D. Rollins Chair and Associate Professor Department of History. Moderating the panel were Dr. Lisa Tillman, Rollins Professor and Chair, and Rollins student Kendra Davies, who was kind enough to give The Sandspur an in-depth interview.

When asked what she wanted the students in the audience to take from the panel, Davies explained that the panel was meant to generate discussion around jury selection processes, how jurors reach their conclusions, and instructions given to them before they deliberate. Just Us for Justice was her way of giving back to the Rollins community after she was selected to attend the Leadership Ally Program in Chicago last fall. In her words, the panel was “a discussion panel on jury service, selection bias, and discrimination.”

Ryan Williams, she explained, had recently been a part of two Orlando police brutality cases in the past 6 months. These are the first trials of this nature in the last 15 years. In the most recent case, the police officers were acquitted, despite video evidence of the incident. This decision may have been tainted due to jury selection. Notable cases where jury selection influenced cases includes the well-known Eric Gartner Case, where documents were suspiciously sealed as soon as the case was decided. She went on to explain that the facts and evidence of police brutality and wrongdoing are there, and that the public needs to understand this and question why cases are decided the way that they are. She feels that most of us have become apathetic to these biased jury selections and injustices. The information is readily available for everyone to see, she states, including jury instructions on how to decide a murder case.

“I want to inspire people to care about the justice system, just for the sake of knowing. And specifically jury service is something that as an American, is a basic duty.” She then went on to explain how prior to her involvement in the discussion panel, her knowledge of jury duty consisted largely of how to get out of doing it. Knowing what she knows now, Davies hopes to inspire students at Rollins to find out more about their justice system. She hopes that discussion is sparked on the question of “What does it actually mean to serve on jury duty?”

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