Issues

Making jurors stay up just so a judge can take a vacation is, well, wrong

Remember the time you stayed up all night to write that English paper? Remember how awful it turned out? Remember the grade you got? Well, keep all that in mind as you read this story:

Nevada District Court Judge Valerie Vega encouraged a jury to deliberate through the night, until 7 a.m., in the murder trial of Victor Fakoya last month. Never mind that this was a murder trial. Never mind that the alleged victim was a child. Never mind that Judge Vega wanted the trial wrapped up so she could make a flight for her two-week vacation. Putting all that aside, Vega still made a bad call.

When fighting to stay awake, logical reasoning grows increasingly tricky. Consciously or unconsciously, getting to bed becomes priority No. 1. In the jury room, returning a verdict becomes more important than returning a correct verdict.

Judge Vega had all kinds of justifications for her decision. She blamed attorneys for dragging out their cases, even though it’s the judge’s job to speed the trial along. She said she gave jurors opportunities to go home, and that they declined. But she should have insisted. Jurors might not have been aware their judgment was impaired.

At least jurisprudence advocates can take comfort in this: Given how much media attention Vega’s poor decision received, it’s unlikely she was able to enjoy her vacation.

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