Yes, yes.

You are innocent. We believe you.

But the police officer did not believe you.

As a result, you have just shelled out thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer. The lawyer told you that conviction carries with it a two-year prison sentence — and the circumstances make it look like you could be guilty.

Palms sweat. Throat tightens. Sleep vanishes.

One day, you walk into a somber federal courtroom. There, high up on a dais, sits an ominously black-robed judge. Over there, inside a box-like rectangle, sit — who?

Twelve angry people, that’s who.

They have been called from Jefferson County to go all the way to Pittsburgh each day, every day, or from Clearfield County to go all the way to Johnstown each day, to decide your case.

They miss work. They must drive for three hours or more each day.

They get paid $40 a day.

It costs $20 a day to park.

They are not happy people.

They are ticked off, really ticked off. It isn’t much of a leap for them to look at you and decide, “If it wasn’t for Bozo over there, I would be at work right now, or at home.”

But wait.

Suppose the trial is at the county level, in Clearfield or Brookville or Ridgway.

Those jurors will be less upset, right?

Wrong.

The pay is still lousy. Parking is still costly — and it is a problem to find a parking space. Maybe they had to walk for blocks in the rain to get into the courthouse. Maybe their undergarments are still damp and chafing.

They will look at you and decide, “If it wasn’t for Bambi over there, I would not be damp, chafed and out of sorts.”

Fair trial, right?

C’mon.

How about bringing juror pay and conditions into the 21st Century?

Yes, that might involve 12 to 15 reserved parking spaces. That might involve pay of at least $120 a day — $15 an hour, the putative new minimum wage.

Oh, no!

We won’t vote to increase taxes.

We’ll just let you take your chances between going back home or going to prison based on the decisions of jurors with chafing underwear and “This is costing me money” attitudes.

This is no way to ensure fair trials.

— Denny Bonavita

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