On Juries and Justice

Guest post by Jon Makransky, Research Assistant for Evaluation at Facing History and Ourselves

The FeelThat network will enable entirely novel modes of communication and sharing on a personal level, but also has the potential to transform institutions that affect the lives of everyone in our democracy. The justice system is among the most important of these institutions, ensuring that every citizen has the opportunity for a fair trial, due process, legal representation, the opportunity to address grievances, and many other essential aspects of our constitutional rights. How could the ability to feel others change the way that judges, juries, officers of the law, and citizens interact and seek justice together?

Emilysjacobs presents an argument that the FeelThat technology could improve the fairness of jury trials, ensuring impartiality on the part of jurors:

Would this change the jury system by helping the lawyers see how the jurors are feeling when presenting a case? #hiesglobal

Isabel Berner writes, “Lawyers would have an easier time quantifying emotional damages and agreeing on fair settlements for victims.” Again, the theme of fairness and impartiality arises; the ability to truly feel victims’ pain could lead to fairer outcomes for them as lawyers modify their arguments and goals.

Not all of the potentialities for the justice system are completely positive, however. Tomas Sagartz writes:

Interrogation would be a lot easier because they can feel the convicts feelings.

While this application of FeelThat could be beneficial for law enforcement, it could also represent a severe overreach and a violation of the civil rights of the accused. Should suspects’ thoughts and feelings be their own, safe from probing for the purposes of interrogation?

Mr.Hebert raises another potential concern about rights infringement:

Minority Report-style crime prediction leads to infringing on the rights of others because they are "likely" to do something bad. #smem16

Implicit bias against certain racial or socioeconomic groups could lead to biased use of FeelThat in turn, perpetuating injustice against these groups and further reinforcing stereotypes.

As we can see, FeelThat holds a great deal of potential for impact on the justice system, both positive and negative. In your view, what beneficial impacts could it have on the prospects for justice in our democracy? What potentially concerning impacts do you see?