Leading article: Citizen jurors

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A teenage defendant in Newcastle is one lucky guy. His manslaughter trial was abandoned after one of the jurors turned investigator and submitted to the judge 37 questions that he thought deserved an answer. In so doing – and then sharing his thoughts with the 11 other "good men and true" – he broke the cardinal rule that the selection of evidence is the preserve of lawyers, and of the judge who rules what is admissible.

Of course, an aborted trial is a scandalous waste of time and public money and an insult to the injured party. But was the juror really to blame or did the old-fashioned protectionism of the legal profession play a role? In an age when specialised knowledge is widely available on the internet, is it reasonable to expect jurors to restrict their sights to the court? Just as doctors encounter patients who (sometimes correctly) diagnose their own ailments, so lawyers will have to reckon with inquisitive amateurs. The professions can no longer expect to protect their closed shops with obscurantism. They will have to level with a well-informed public – the 12th juror has done us all a favour.

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