There is a lot of discussion at the moment about the Oracle v Google trial today, mostly centring around how impossible it is for the jury to understand the very technical concepts involved in the case. As Daring Fireball puts it:
How could a randomly-selected jury possibly decide this? No knock intended against the jurors themselves — and it sounds like they’re doing their best to make an informed decision. But there’s a difference between a jury of your citizen peers and a jury of your technical peers.
Indeed, the situation is fairly ridiculous, however it’s not at all unique to technology. Juries are expected to evaluate extremely complex laws in most cases and contracts between parties can be just as confusing as any technical issue. Even when the law is relatively clear the elements of a case can be extremely complex – trying to understand exactly what forensic evidence does and doesn’t show for example.
The challenges for the jury in this trial are obvious to people with technical background, but the challenges for the jury in other types of cases is likely to be just as obvious to experts in those fields. Of course if we tried to create a jury of peers from the area of expertise required, we’d just create the extremely difficult challenge of deciding who is qualified and who isn’t.
It’s not a perfect system, but it is the best one we have.