KUHF-Houston Public Radio's "This I Believe" with Anthony Laporte
Friday, February 22, 2008
by: Paul Pendergraft
Anthony is a passionate advocate for his beliefs. He remains awed by the American jury system. He says it reflects the best of what this country is all about. He says the fundamental rights of every American are protected in the jury box by 12 random citizens. It’s the one place where minority rights are truly protected. Anthony has a young daughter, who he calls the “apple of his eye”. He says his deeply held beliefs and the work he does everyday are all about making a better world for his daughter to inherit.
Here’s Anthony Laporte with his essay for Houston Public Radio’s This I Believe.
“I believe in juries and the jury system. I believe in their ability to discern truth from lies, agreements from proposals, and legal duties from moral obligations.
For over a decade, as a trial attorney, I have had the opportunity to present cases to juries in Texas. When I started, my firm represented several big companies, whose risk managers routinely told us of their desire to avoid juries at all costs. It was as if, although the general public was fit to purchase and use the company’s product, the average consumer was not suited to decide the right and wrong of the claims involving it. Though the company ran extensive marketing studies, it always acted as if the jury box would be filled with space aliens.
Recently, my firm and I defended a wrongful death case involving a large corporation. Some five years after the man’s death, the case did proceed to jury trial. The jury listened to two weeks of testimony from the widow, the company employees, the witnesses, and the experts. The jury deliberated for four hours and ultimately ruled against the widow and the family. The company’s directors were genuinely surprised, after having nightmarish visions of huge bags of money being carted away and their employees’ heads on pikes, they couldn’t believe that a jury would decide the case fairly.
Our jury system harkens back to old English times, when it was decided that having some twelve assorted individuals from the community would rule upon disputes would be a safe method and no one would be able to improperly influence all of them. Juries preclude governing majorities, red or blue, from controlling justice. Juries, as opposed to arbitrators, avoid the sort of pay-for-justice schemes that so many foreign jurisdictions seemingly embrace. There are countries where individuals cannot get a jury trial, and, rest assured, many people do not want to live there.
Before I became an attorney, I thought that aged powdered-wigged men in robes were the embodiment of justice. I was wrong. Law, equity, and justice lie in the unified statement of randomly collected citizens.
The power of a person’s voice and their beliefs are heard in the jury box perhaps more than anywhere in public life. Although juries may have twelve different voices in the parking lot, they speak in harmony at court. I’ve won and I’ve lost, but I’ve never seen the jury get it wrong. It is the true jealous protector of the rights of our people.
This I believe.
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