An article published on August 31, 2017, at the High Country News website highlights the limits of trial by jury. The title of the article by Tay Wiles is "Why the Bundy crew keeps sinning in court". It reports on how a Las Vegas jury acquitted two men for their role in the 2014 armed confrontation between the federal government and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy.
The article points out that when trying the Bundys and their supporters federal prosecutors have only one two convictions after two trials of six defendants in Nevada in 2017. And in 2016, Bundy's sons Ryan and Ammon and five others were acquitted of leading the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during January and February 2016.
Mr. Wiles points out that the convictions probably reflect growing skepticism about government authority in the Mountain West of the USA. He writes that " . . . Juries have long been influenced by cultural norms outside the courtroom." He quotes Rory Little, a University of California Hastings College of Law professor who said, "In the 1950s, people were tried and criminally convicted for simply believing that communism is a good idea. . . . In the 1960s there were civil rights cases where certain juries in certain states just wouldn't convict a white person for interfering (with the lives of African Americans) . . ."
The problem is that jurors are instructed to use common sense and lived experience when evaluating evidence. Mr. Wiles cites a Pew Research Report released in late 2015 that revealed that 80 percent of Americans did not trust the federal government to do what is right just about always or most of the time. That percentage was up from 66 percent in 2000 and 27 percent in 1958.