I recently read "A reasonable doubt about jury trials" by Henning Schroeder (Opinion Exchange, March 9). It was highlighted by cynicism and digs at a justice system that overall works very well, but it avoided any real analysis of what makes this country great.
The justice structure in this country is composed of a free and open jury system that allows citizens to go to court and fight for their rights. Civilly, it allows ordinary citizens to challenge giants like large corporations and powerful individuals but in a system that is fair to all. Criminally, it provides an opportunity for people to defend themselves and adds extra protections of right to counsel, right to remain silent, right to bring witnesses forward, and right to go through a trial and be judged by one's peers.
The comparison to any other country is greatly lacking. In many countries, justice is met by an arbitrary "fact"-finder and is done harshly. While the existence of death row can be expensive, it does allow for appeals that can result in setting people free. In some other countries, those people would be long dead and, except by their loved ones, long forgotten.
A review of what has gone on in the Derek Chauvin trial is a great example of the effort and care that goes into putting on a fair trial. A majority of the legal rulings and challenges have involved decisions regarding the start of the trial, the overall process of the trial, and the protection of the trial. The very nature of the judge's decision to televise the trial is so that the public is able to see what happens in the most transparent manner possible.
It is also important to point out the sacrifices made by jurors in performing their civic duty. Jurors barely get paid, they miss work (in some cases for long periods of time) and they have the inconvenience of coming to the courthouse, etc. Nevertheless, they commit themselves to delivering justice. Most jurors after trial will tell us how much they enjoyed having gone through the process and being part of a decision. Regularly, the Minnesota Legislature looks at jurors' bill of rights for the courts and lawyers to follow. The opinion piece is nonsense when you consider the proud Minnesotans and Americans that have taken part in this great system of justice.
Michael A. Bryant, Waite Park
The writer is dean of the Academy of Certified Trial Lawyers of Minnesota.
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Schroeder's argument in his commentary is fully justified. However, he only mentions criminal cases. As a former insurance professional, I observed the tendency of many juries to ignore principles of law and "give him/her something," per an attitude reported by an acquaintance after his jury experience. At times, "sympathy awards" run into multiple millions, even when the plaintiff's own negligence is the main, or even the only, cause of the harm. Trial lawyers, who get substantial chunks of these awards (generally one-third or more in the contingent-fee cases, the most common), can be expected to oppose any changes. While insurance covers the bulk of these awards, everybody pays — through increased rates.
John Koehler, St. Louis Park
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Schroeder was right on the money about judges instead of juries. I've been on two juries. In the criminal one, three or four of us had to convince the others of the defendant's guilt. Two jurors cried at times, and some didn't understand the forensic evidence. In the civil one, the issues were of a business nature and somewhat complicated. Three of the jurors were swayed by a lawyer not with evidence but emotional pleas that had no relevance to the issues. Professional judges instead of juries, and maybe some additional expertise beyond just legal, would result in more just findings.
Deb Myers, Plymouth
UPPER ST. ANTHONY FALLS
Another factor: Adjacent land
So the Army Corps of Engineers wishes to abandon the lock at St. Anthony Falls so someone else can manage the city's water supply, prevent flooding and maintain the lock in perpetuity? ("No takers are found for Mpls. lock, dam," March 9.) Even though this action is in clear violation of federal directives? And no qualified entity exists?
Lost in the conversation about the Corps' baffling effort to abandon the lock and dam is a critical question: Should the federal government be allowed to let the Upper Lock decay at a key location on our city's riverfront; or should the Corps cooperate with the community and dispose of a few unwanted acres adjacent to the lock so it can be repurposed for public use?
It is mind-boggling that it has taken six years, multiple federal laws and unanimous pressure from involved Minnesota members of Congress to advance the simple conveyance of a site the size of a postage stamp.
Many have weighed in on the value of repurposing the Upper Lock, with ideas like a Native American interpretive center, a marina, green space, walking trails, a visitor center and space for meditation.
The Army Corps' intent to find a new owner and walk away from the lock — without first conveying this adjacent real estate — would guarantee this strategic river site lies fallow for many years.
Friends of the Falls, the Native American Community Development Institute, justice advocates and the general public await an outcome that protects the public interest and empowers the community to determine the best future of this site.
Mark Andrew, Minneapolis
The writer is president of Friends of the Falls.
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Contrary to a recent article, the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock is open for business and a vital hub of activity.
Since the lock was closed in 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers no longer serves navigation at the site; however, National Park Service rangers at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area have given hundreds of public tours there. Visitors can experience the only major waterfall on the Mississippi from an observation deck while learning about the history of our nation's iconic river. And these tours are popular. Once the park service opened the doors to the public, there was an immediate tenfold increase in visitors.
People clearly want to experience the river. Yet the Corps wants to walk away and is not even funding upkeep in the process. The lock is still critical to the water supply for nearly a million people and local flood control mitigation. Letting this building deteriorate while it tries to find a new owner jeopardizes safety and public enjoyment of the river.
And there is no other viable owner. The Corps built the structure and has the expertise and budget to maintain it, so should continue that responsibility.
The Corps must stay as a valued community partner, and Congress should support it by expanding its role at the lock to protect the region's water supply and ensure continued recreational opportunities for all.
Christine Goepfert, St. Paul
The writer is associate director at the National Parks Conservation Association.
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