While District Judge Gregory W. Moeller spoke at the Rexburg Chamber Forum about his experience with To Kill a Mockingbird and the jury system in Idaho, he explained the contribution BYU-Idaho students make to the court.
Moeller began his speech by recalling his experience with Harper Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the influence it had on his life. He also spoke about his experience in receiving a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee.
He then spoke about the jury system in Idaho and all it entails.
“Trial by jury is deeply rooted in American values,” he said.
Moeller said that for every jury trial he presides over, he begins by quoting Thomas Jefferson’s paraphrased statement, “Trial by jury is the anchor of all liberties.”
“I take this very seriously,” he said.
In Idaho, jurors are selected randomly from among a cross section of the population of the area served by the court, according to Idaho Code Section 2-202.
Moeller said that because of the impact BYU-I students have on the population of Madison County — making up nearly half of the population, according to the City of Rexburg’s website — he does not automatically excuse them from jury duty because they are a student and would miss class.
“Spend a day in court on jury duty and you may learn more about civics and the Constitution than you could in an entire semester,” he said.
Moeller said he excuses students from jury duty on a case-by-case basis, but that in order to provide a jury of one’s peers, he does not automatically disqualify such a vast portion of the population from taking part in the trial.
Moeller explained in his speech that, in Idaho, a jury by one’s peers does not mean the jury is made up of people with the same level of education, economic status, ethnicity or sex as the defendant; it means the jurors are randomly chosen from within the county in which the defendant lives, unless the trial is moved to a venue outside of the county.
“If I have a trial where the defendant is a BYU-Idaho student and I automatically excused every BYU-Idaho student from jury, I may have violated the defendant’s constitutional right to a jury drawn from a random cross section of the community,” Moeller said. “Even college students are entitled to a jury of their peers.”