Jury Duty

by Harry on September 20, 2022

I know people who have been called for jury duty several times, but its something I’ve never wanted to do, and by the time I finally got the summons I thought maybe I’d avoided it. But the summons came a year or so before the pandemic and, after a couple of delays, I duly went to the courthouse early one morning to wait with the other couple of hundred or so people who’d gotten the same demand.

I was finally called as part of a group of 18. We were duly put in that place in the courtroom where the jury sit, and the process of selection began. The prosecuting attorney looked far too young to do his job, and the defendant looked confident with his attorney. I guess both sides can dismiss a certain number of people without explanation, so they generally ask questions designed to exclude people who will be bad jurors for one side or the other. We were told that the case involved violence so the first (and, as it turned out, only) question we were asked (after disclosing our occupations) was whether we had ever been a victim of violence. The prosecutor went through us one by one. The first thing I learned was that, unless they were lying, a lot of people have been victims of violence, and in particular domestic violence (men, as well as women). It was unsettling to be honest.

I was the only person there other than the attorney and judge who was dressed non-causally (button down shirt, jacket, tie, basically what I’ve been wearing since I was 12) and I seem as mild mannered in person as I do online, so people seemed surprised when they got to me and I, of course, had to say yes, I, too, have been a victim of violence. They asked the circumstances at which point I figured I was in luck, and would surely be rejected. Two different instances of police brutality, one of them moderate (knocked to the ground, put in a van, punched and kicked till we got to the cells, after which I was left alone) the other more serious (beaten many times with a night stick so that although no bones were broken, most of my torso was bruised, which is odd, because I can only actually remember being hit repeatedly on the arm by an officer who was clearly aiming to break it).

The prosecuting attorney made me go through pretty much the whole story of the more recent (and brutal) of the attacks [1], throughout which story the defendant just stared at me in disbelief. The prosecutor then said “The prosecution’s case will rest heavily on police testimony. Do you think that you can judge a police officer’s testimony without prejudice” to which I replied, without thinking “Yes of course, it was a long time ago and there are bad professors too you know” which was a stupid thing to say.

And. I was not struck from the jury. So. I turned up the next day, and sat for 2 hours in the ante-room with the other jurors waiting for the trial to start, trying to avoid conversation so I could get some work done. Eventually we got the message that we wouldn’t be needed, because a key witness (the victim, I assume) had not showed. But before we left the judge came in and treated us to a remarkably long, but not uninteresting, discourse on the history, procedure, and value of jury trials (personally my own conviction was just one judge, no jury – if I’d gone to a jury trial, which I had the right to do, the stakes would have been higher). And at the end of his soliloquy the judge turns to me, in front of everyone, and says “You, sir, should have been struck from the jury”. I asked him why. His response: “I expressed my disbelief to the prosecutor that he’d allowed you through and asked why he didn’t strike you. He told me ‘I couldn’t because it would have been obvious that I was striking him because of the police beating’. And I said back to him ‘No, you didn’t need to dismiss him because of that. He’s a philosopher, and you never want them on juries. They can always see reasons to doubt.’”

The rest of the jury laughed. But I didn’t. I had just noticed that not only was he wearing a blue shirt the exact colour of the one I was wearing but he was also wearing exactly the same tie as I was, one with multiple images of Winnie the Pooh on it, sticking his head in a pot of honey and surrounded by bees.

Other jury duty stories welcome.

[1] Just to say, more recent is nevertheless 1990, quite a while ago.



B 09.20.22 at 12:46 am

I was called for jury on a police brutality case. Tony Serra, the famous attorney, was pro bono for the defense, a black woman was plaintiff. The prosecutor was quite experienced. I think they wanted this case to convict. I was empaneled in the jury box. And, I was asked if I had any experience with police officers. I said yes, a friend was on the police department. Prosecutor asked if there was anything related to police arrest procedure. I told them he taught at the police academy now, he has a PhD in psychology, and that after his probationary period was over post-graduation from the academy, he came to see me.

We were relaxing, shooting the breeze, and he told me, “You have no idea what a rush it is to take somebody down! I can tackle them, throw them to the ground, put the cuffs on, and say, ‘I don’t have to listen to your damn problems! Shut up!'” We laughed, and I remarked that he had found his niche.

You could have heard a pin drop. Tony was poker faced, but his eyes spoke volumes. He knew this was the real story. I was asked if I could be fair, and if this would prejudice me in the trial. I said, reluctantly, no. They moved on. I was not struck.

I had brought a butterfly book. I was reviewing it before I took it to the chief entomologist of the Moscow Zoo. The jury selection droned on, boring as crumbs on a carpet. So I started examining the book again. It was very good, with excellent color renderings. I validated that the colors were accurate for some butterflies I knew. My turning some pages attracted the attention of the judge. He said, “Mr. (moi) if you paid attention you might learn something.” I was wrapped up in my reading, with half an ear on the proceedings. I already knew quite a bit about court procedure, having watched. I looked up at him, and I realized that I must have a face that registered nearly howling laughter combined with astonishment at this idea. I wiped it off my face quickly. The judge told me to put the book away, which I did, but he didn’t look towards me again.

The prosecutor dismissed me. He had his excuse that didn’t look like he was dismissing me for potential prejudice.

Two days later I read that they had come to a plea bargain of a misdemeanor. Reading the facts, I thought that was overly harsh. It was a case of police misconduct I thought.


SamChevre 09.20.22 at 1:28 am

My wife was called for jury duty last week, but was dismissed after a half-hour because the trial was cancelled due to a plea bargain.

An account of a juror with a lot of discussion, <a href=”https://www.datasecretslox.com/index.php/topic,6046.msg228847.htm’>here.


Anon 09.20.22 at 2:30 am

I had a similar experience involving my philosophy background and jury duty, except, fittingly perhaps, it was purely hypothetical.

I was doing a project once where I went through a bunch of criminal convictions for rape, it was a harrowing experience. As I read through the cases, I naturally started putting myself in the role of the judge or jury. It occurred to me that, in a lot of cases maybe even most, if the defense just kept it’s mouth shut and insisted everything was consensual, then despite my sense that very probably the defense was guilty, I would have had to acquit, because it simply didn’t rise to my conception of beyond reasonable doubt. I had a bit of a squiz at some murder cases, and a bunch of them also looked like they didn’t reach my standards of beyond reasonable doubt.

I would say that, for me, beyond reasonable doubt means >98% chance of guilt, sometimes 99% depending on my mood. I interpret it to mean that, in order to have any real or substantial doubt, you would have to be being unreasonable. The problem is that my training in philosophy, psychology etc. has made me very good at finding reasons for doubt- and I’m not talking about evil demons or other extravagant hypotheses.

This caused in me something of a crisis. I genuinely believe in the beyond reasonable doubt standard, but I also don’t think a society where any halfway intelligent person without dreadful luck can get away with rape or murder is viable in the long run. If people feel there is no real chance of those who attack them or their relatives being caught, they’ll turn to vigilantism- especially since they’ll feel like they can get away with it to.

I began to wonder if the system where we pretend to be using beyond reasonable doubt as the standard, when really we’re using something more like a 90% standard may not be, in practice, the best of a bad bunch of options. Alternatives look attractive on the surface- e.g. just admitting we’re using a lesser standard- turn out to have all sorts of flaws (if people are using the 90% standard now, if you tell them to use the 90% standard they might start using the 75% standard and so on.)

I dunno. Silly thoughts perhaps, but they keep me up at night sometimes.


jsrtheta 09.20.22 at 3:22 am

My first job as a lawyer was with the Cook County (IL) State’s Attorney’s Office. One of my supervisors taught us a surprising thing: He said that, when possible, put a convicted felon on the jury. As prosecutors, we were stunned at this. But he pointed out that most street criminals generally didn’t hate the police, but saw them as just doing their jobs. As criminals, they knew that what they did was legally wrong and carried the obvious risk of getting caught. But what the cops were doing wasn’t personal.

He told us he once put a convicted drug dealer on a jury that was hearing a case of aggravated battery and attempted murder of a cop. The jury convicted the guy of attempted murder instead of aggravated battery. The majority initially voted to convict of aggravated battery only, but the drug dealer pushed them to convict of attempted murder, because the cop was blameless and you can’t have people going around killing cops.

Some years later I had the chance to try out the idea, and left a young guy with a felony drug conviction on a jury, to the shock of the defense. The jury convicted the defendant. The bailiff told me that the drug dealer I’d left on the jury was now my biggest fan, and said that for the first time since he’d been convicted himself, he felt a part of society again, and that serving on the jury was the best thing that had happened to him.


J-D 09.20.22 at 3:24 am

I’m sufficiently curious enough to want to find out what it’s like to be on a jury, but I never have been. There was one time I came close. The Legal Office wrote a letter which I sent to the Sheriff’s office explaining that I had given a statement for a matter which would be the subject of tribunal proceedings on the same date as the one I’d been called for jury duty, and therefore I had to be available in case the other side wanted me called and cross-examined. So I was excused from jury duty. (The other side didn’t end up calling me as a witness in those tribunal proceedings, but later I was called and cross-examined in separate proceedings in the same tribunal by the same opposing party, so the possibility I might have been on the occasion I was called for jury duty was a live one and not merely concocted to get me out of jury duty.)


Alan White 09.20.22 at 5:31 am

I was called for jury duty (in Harry’s state of Wisconsin), but wrote a letter for recusal on the basis that I served for 18 years on the state Supreme Court’s regional office of lawyer regulation, and that it was a non-trivial possibility that a lawyer appearing before me was one that I had reviewed for unethical/illegal behavior. I was excused.

However, my terms on the Office of Lawyer Regulation was one of the best experiences of my life in terms of community service as a philosophy professor, and my colleagues often expressed gratitude for my perspectives on logic and evidence. So there’s that to offset the prejudice of practicing lawyers against philosophers, which in fact was often conveyed to me by lawyers on the committees, who found that while my experience was useful on the committee, was too intimidating for the purposes of getting convictions or acquittals as a prospective juror.


deiseach 09.20.22 at 9:15 am

I’d love to do jury duty and lo! the day finally arrived when the letter instructing me to present myself etc – two weeks after I had moved country. True but boring jury duty story


reason 09.20.22 at 9:49 am

I was called to jury duty (in Australia) twice. The first case was dismissed (because of an illness of a chief witness).

The second case involved a young man involved involved in car stealing. They just took one car after another and went for joy rides in them. The chief witness against him was an accomplice. I felt a bit a sorry for the young man, but he was obviously guilty. (He basically just tagged along with a younger accomplice, maybe helped with technical knowledge.) What was odd is one of the witnesses insisted on a date for a car theft, that didn’t seem possible. I basically ignored the problem with the date (after I mentioned it in the jury) and we found him guilty. The defence lawyer tried to push a story that the police had withheld drugs from him to get him to sign a confession. It didn’t ring true with the general tenor of the cross examination.

Later the leading detective talked to us and thanked us for the verdict. I mentioned the problem with the date and he said – yes he knows but the witness wouldn’t change her story. He also said the the defendant claiming he was drug dependent was odd, because the defendant had been in prison before and had been beaten up for flushing drugs down the toilet and was anti-drug.

As I said a sad case, the defendant was a very weak character and easily led and bored and directionless – how prison would help him is hard to see. He was not violent or dangerous.


Matt 09.20.22 at 10:11 am

Cass Sunstein wrote an interesting article (popular, if I’m remembering right, not really academic) about serving on a jury several years back. Sadly, I can’t find it in the time I’m willing to devote to looking for it, but my recollection was that he was extremely surprised to not be dismissed (one of the lawyers knew his work well and wanted him – the other may not have really recognized him, but it’s pretty unusual for a law professor to not be dismissed, for fear that he or she will dominate deliberations.)

Even before I started teaching law I was always dismissed for criminal cases because my father is a police officer. This seemed like a mistake (if maybe an understandable one) to me, because one thing that was driven home to me from riding along w/ police (as I did dozens of times) was that, even when they are trying hard and being honest (which is, of couse, not all of the time) they make mistakes, so the fact that someone was arrested or given a ticket or identified or whatever is not close to proof of guilt. I’m pretty sure I believed that more than an average person. (I was also considered for a medical malpractice case once but was also dismissed – maybe because my mother was a nurse, maybe because I’d worked in a hospital in college, maybe for another reason, but again, if it was the suing party, it was a mistake in my case to dismiss me.)

The big annoyances for me in getting a jury duty summons in Philadelphia (where I got most of mine) was that the “pay” – $8/day – wouldn’t even pay for parking or the train each way. I, at least, didn’t miss work or have to pay for child care, but it was really rediculous. Also, I got summons after moving away more than once, and it was a pain to convince them that I no longer lived in the city each time. I know that they struggle to get enough jurors, but maltreatment of them doesn’t seem like a good way to get people to show up.


engels 09.20.22 at 10:18 am

If the brain in a vat hypothesis fits (with your sense impressions) you must acquit.


Peter 09.20.22 at 12:26 pm

I had just noticed that not only was he wearing a blue shirt the exact colour of the one I was wearing but he was also wearing exactly the same tie as I was, one with multiple images of Winnie the Pooh on it, sticking his head in a pot of honey and surrounded by bees.

“…and then I woke up”.
Otherwise… that’s amazing.

I was called for jury duty when I was about 21, and it happened that I was tutoring in a 1st year philosophy course on logic & reasoning. I went in and said that I couldn’t do jury duty because of my responsibility to my students, and was let go.
That was 28 years ago, and I’ve never been called back. I haven’t tutored philosophy for 27 of those years, but I guess I’m just lucky?


CJColucci 09.20.22 at 4:37 pm

My wife, whose job includes prosecuting probation violators in the Bronx, ended up sitting as an alternate on an attempted homicide in the Bronx. The defense lawyer had run out of peremptory challenges. When the judge dismissed the jury for breaks, other lawyers who had business before the judge would come in, see her, and talk to the defense lawyer. Lip readers could spot the WTFs and HTFs. New York used to require sequestration of jurors in all felony cases. The law changed, effective immediately, making it a matter for the judge’s discretion, except for trials that had already started, like the one my wife was sitting on. It turned out that this trial was the last to come under the old rule and they were the last jurors who had to be sequestered — in a hotel in New Rochelle for some reason.
Even though the prosecutor was very skillful at what he was doing and the defense lawyer was a stumblebum, the prosecutor kept doing things that didn’t advance the ball while the defense lawyer, in appallingly bad fashion, did useful things like — surprisingly — putting his client on the stand. The jury concluded not only that the prosecution had failed to prove its case, but that the defendant was factually innocent — a very different thing. I tried to convince my wife to write an article about her experience on the jury, because it held many valuable lessons for advocates, but she declined.
I have never served on a jury and probably never will, but I do have one jury selection story. There was a potential juror named Troy Canty, who seemed perfectly suitable, but I had a nagging feeling I knew him from somewhere. After a few questions that didn’t help, I just asked him: “I have a nagging feeling I know you from somewhere. Do you have any idea why that might be?” (Yes, that is an amateurish question.) He told me he was one of the four youths that Bernard Goetz shot on the subway. Based on what I had seen of him, I would have been perfectly happy to have him on the jury, and get a story to tell for years, but I knew, based on the reaction of opposing counsel and the judge, that I’d never get him through and decided not to fight for him.


Sebastian H 09.20.22 at 5:30 pm

I was on a jury with a rape trial of a 13 year old on the way to school that was heart wrenching.

A lot of the law came down to whether or not he had penetrated her or not, and we received intensive expert testimony that rape often does not cause bruising.

Things were not going well for the defendant’s side because there was DNA evidence plus witness testimony, and in closing the defense attorney went for “the fat girl wanted it” concept which elicited a gasp from the prosecutor and a bunch of the jury.

We ended up having to deliberate for two days because one holdout believed that there would always be bruising in a rape. Arrrghhh. We went round and round about the expert doctor testimony, and finally he gave in. It was a tough experience.


JimV 09.20.22 at 5:56 pm

I read somewhere that the legal standard for “beyond a reasonable doubt” is 95%, which is the old p<=0.05 statistical hypothesis-test standard. Which is in some dispute these days, but mainly because if you keep trying enough hypotheses to fit some data, you’re bound to find one which meets the standard eventually–but that is true of any fixed standard. For a trial with both sides arguing the evidence 95% seems fair enough to me. Setting a guilty person free has costs too.

Not that statistical probabilities have much to do with jury deliberations.

I’ve been through the jury voir dire process once, was asked a question about clearing or not clearing a fixed standard based on a high-bar jump analogy, which seemed tautologistic to me, but I answered it for both sides (Yes, if you clear the bar by one millimeter you’ve cleared it, no if you miss by one millimeter you haven’t cleared it) and was promptly dismissed. I suspect my Master’s degree and occupation (engineer) were the main causes. I’ve heard that lawyers don’t want engineers on juries but I’m not sure if it is for the same reason as philosophers–probably not.

As an engineer, my technical solution would be to develop reliable lie detectors, maybe based on MRI scans. However, I understand they would be terrible tools in the hands of people in power such as Trump. So I would also want AI judges, with their first task being to fix our constitutions.


Mike Furlan 09.20.22 at 6:21 pm

“…he felt a part of society again, and that serving on the jury was the best thing that had happened to him.”

Be like him.

You have far more power for good (or evil) on a jury than you will ever have in the voting booth. And we are always urging people to register and vote.

I’ve been on a jury and I’ve been rejected for a grand jury because I said I could not trust a police officers’ word on any drug case. (White suburban prosecutor who commutes into the city to lock up black folks was empanelling this jury.) But I would always serve if I thought I could be objective.


afeman 09.20.22 at 6:30 pm

I’ve made it to voir dire twice, in the US. First was a federal narcotics trafficking case. The jury pool must have had 200 people. As I recall, the judge asked people who had involvement with the police, from either side, to come up and privately describe their situation. I was surprised how large a percentage of the pool did so. Despite, or because of, my vanilla background, I was not selected.

I was later selected for a murder trial. The prosecution’s case was that the main witness arranged and accompanied a drug buy for the defendant from his friend, whom according to him the defendant shot in the head and robbed. There was a fair bit of physical and cell phone record evidence to support this story: recovered weed, some of the victim’s DNA on the recovered gun. As I recall the defense’s story was a non-cohering spray of FUD, but turns out the guy knew what he was doing (I later found out he had been with the state’s attorney in a famous serial killer case). I expected to be the most reserved in deliberation but was in fact perhaps the most convinced of the jury. A number of them dismissed the main witness’s testimony out of hand for reasons unclear to me (besides his living in a shelter), and an MD cast doubt on the reliability of DNA evidence in general. But the case was most thoroughly lost with a juror who noted that two eyewitnesses, I think Salvadorian, reported seeing from a distance two Black men in hoodies fleeing. She, from Ecuador, insisted that Latin Americans would recognize the difference between Black people and the defendant (I think of Salvadorian background). Fleetingly, from behind, at a distance, in hoodies.

We voted to acquit. It didn’t sit well with me and I couldn’t meet the eyes of the victim’s family, but I didn’t see how to argue otherwise and I didn’t have the conviction to cause a mistrial.

I think about different understandings of evidence: I guess I’m trained try to piece together the most likely story of something, provided it’s available. How did that guy get a bullet in his head? That’s not enough for “beyond a reasonable doubt”, nor the task of a jury to determine, and I think I could have been genuinely swayed either way, but I had expectations of a certain consilience, which pointed at the defendant. Against that was the one juror’s identity putting weight on one of the demonstrably least reliable sorts of evidence. I’ve also heard noted that juries get unrealistic expectations of air-tight cases from TV shows.

Perhaps in a complimentary way to Anon, it undermined my confidence in the place of jury trials in this system. With the outcome so dependent on the whims of single jurors, there must be added incentive to falsify evidence or to force plea deals, the prominence of which I understand is nearly unique to US courts.

I’m discomforted that that dickhead with a gun lives too close to me.

It was a fascinating experience that I hope I never do again.


both sides do it 09.20.22 at 9:47 pm

one with multiple images of Winnie the Pooh on it, sticking his head in a pot of honey and surrounded by bees

The combs of justice drip slowly but sweetly


Tim Sommers 09.20.22 at 11:00 pm

I was explicitly dismissed from a jury during the first round for teaching philosophy. I know multiple people who have also been dismissed for being philosophy professors. It’s a thing.


oldster 09.20.22 at 11:09 pm

“It was a fascinating experience that I hope I never do again.”
Afeman’s reaction is one that I have heard many times from many people.
I have been called to show up at least once, but never been empaneled. Not because of anything I do or am, but just because the parties settled. Asking for a trial and going through the opening steps can be part of the brinkmanship in a civil case.


Harry 09.20.22 at 11:22 pm

Peter. It really did happen. I was very distracted indeed and looked around wondering if anyone else had noticed. Of course maybe like me they all did but were too stunned to say anything!


J-D 09.21.22 at 12:50 am

Since more than one person has mentioned America’s elaborate jury selection process, which is also familiar to many people from legal dramas, it seems worth mentioning that it is American and that in other countries the same kind of pre-trial questioning of jurors does not take place.


SusanC 09.21.22 at 9:07 am

I’ve done jury service twice. In the U.K., at least, jury deliberations are considered confidential, so we shouldn’t’ be telling stories about what went on.

It’s presumably ok to talk in general terms about lessons learned, without saying what the cases were. main lesson learned: don’t answer any questions until you’ve spoken to your lawyer first.

Suppose you’re being charged with something pretty serious, of which you’re actually innocent. But you’re probably also guilty of some minor transgression which you aren’t being charged for, and almost certainly won’t be charged for. Do not make up some false story to cover up. Shut up except to ask for your lawyer.

Things also not to do: when cautioned, do not say that you were too high on drugs to remember what happened. You might think this is a clever excuse to avoid further questioning, but there is an obvious problem with it, which should be evident to the CT readership. You do not want to find out what a creative prosecutor from the cps is going to do with that.


engels 09.21.22 at 10:06 am

America’s elaborate jury selection process… is American

It seems of a piece with a strongly subjectivist and deterministic current in American discursive culture more generally although I may be fated to think that as a dead white euro.


J-D 09.21.22 at 1:31 pm

In the U.K., at least, jury deliberations are considered confidential, so we shouldn’t’ be telling stories about what went on.

In the UK, it can be a criminal offence to disclose information about jury deliberations. The law in other places is not the same as the law in the UK.


Mike Shadow 09.21.22 at 5:11 pm

I was on a jury in a felony murder case and it sucked. We convicted a guy I was pretty sure didn’t kill the victim. But that didn’t matter according to the law. In voir dire I said I would uphold a law even if I didn’t agree with it. Halfway through the case I realized why I was asked that question. Next time I am going to say “It depends.”


Doug K 09.21.22 at 6:02 pm

I get called for jury duty every 3 years or so. As yet I’ve never served – the jury pool is large and usually the jury is formed before my number is called. In two cases I made it to the courtroom where selection is done.

First case, a chiropractor had slowed down on a freeway to look at some wildlife and got rear-ended. The chiro was suing for whiplash damages. In the selection the lawyers were asking ‘how do you feel about chiropractic ?’
I was confident I wouldn’t be selected ;-) as I had my rant about subluxations and ghost doctors all ready.

Second case was a peculiarly US tragedy. A young mentally disturbed veteran of the Iraq war had broken into a vacation home looking for food. The neighbor was an old man equally mentally disturbed, with lots of guns and a stand-your-ground vigilante belief system fostered from too many movies and NRA publications. Neighbor went over with two handguns and started shooting. He missed, the veteran took his guns and killed him. The veteran was found guilty and locked away in prison. This could only have happened in the US, where veterans are abandoned to forage on the streets and crazy old men with guns star in the Western movie in their heads.


Robert Weston 09.21.22 at 7:28 pm



blockquote cite=”I was on a jury in a felony murder case and it sucked. We convicted a guy I was pretty sure didn’t kill the victim. But that didn’t matter according to the law. In voir dire I said I would uphold a law even if I didn’t agree with it.”

If a juror sincerely believes the prosecution has not done its job of demonstrating the defendant’s guilt, how can it be against the law to vote against conviction?


Sebastian H 09.21.22 at 7:48 pm

The felony murder rule as applied is one of the most grossly abusive rules in criminal law. I understand its intent: that if you kidnap someone and they die as a result it is your fault and that can be considered murder. But the applications are insane–a very common one is that if the police shoot your accomplice they can hit you for murder.


J-D 09.22.22 at 12:47 am

I was on a jury in a felony murder case and it sucked. We convicted a guy I was pretty sure didn’t kill the victim. But that didn’t matter according to the law. In voir dire I said I would uphold a law even if I didn’t agree with it.”

If a juror sincerely believes the prosecution has not done its job of demonstrating the defendant’s guilt, how can it be against the law to vote against conviction?

How can it be against the law for a jury to ignore the judge’s instructions about the law?


JT 09.22.22 at 4:36 am

It’s not just philosophy profs. While finishing up my PhD in a social science I was the first peremptory dismissal, and I asked my friend the county prosecutor (not trying this case) why, and he said they were instantly taught that anyone with a PhD was suspect and best to get rid of.


Phil 09.23.22 at 12:51 pm

“I had just noticed that not only was he wearing a blue shirt the exact colour of the one I was wearing but he was also wearing exactly the same tie as I was, one with multiple images of Winnie the Pooh on it, sticking his head in a pot of honey and surrounded by bees.”

Then… you realised you were looking in a mirror and remembered that you were the judge? you were ushered into another room to speak to the Grand Prosecutor, whose secretary kept you waiting for the rest of the day before leaving the building and locking you in, or so you thought until [cont’d p 94]? you woke up?

I’ve had some odd “mon semblable! mon frère!” moments myself*, but nothing as detailed as that.

*When I was a freelance I once went to a press launch sporting a well-trimmed beard, a heavy cotton button-down shirt and good-condition jeans, with a plain leather belt and ditto boots. Looking round the green room, I suddenly realised I was in uniform.


Hugh Mann 09.23.22 at 8:04 pm

The most depressing words a prospective UK juror can hear:

“Do you work for, or have you had any involvement with social services?”

Yes, it one of those cases, and pretty depressing it was too. The contrast between the public-school tones of judge and barristers and the sad procession of overweight witnesses – and indeed the sad and overweight defendant – was striking. Two hugely different worlds in the same room.


Dr. Hilarius 09.28.22 at 5:13 am

J-D at 29: It is not unlawful for a jury to ignore the law as provided by the court. It’s usually called “jury nullification” and is subject to endless debate in legal circles. There’s no easy way to know how often it occurs but acquittals due to nullification are probably rare.

An old US Supreme Court case made a distinction between jurors having the power to nullify the law versus the right to do so. Homing v. District of Columbia, 254 U.S. 135, 138 (1920). Justice Holmes stated that “the jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both law and facts.”


J-D 09.29.22 at 12:46 am

There’s no easy way to know how often it occurs …

Exactly! People might guess, when the jury’s verdict comes out, that the jury took a conscious decision to ignore the judge’s instructions, but how is anybody going to know? It would be different if juries were required to give reasons for their verdicts, but they aren’t.

In some jurisdictions, it would be not only hard to find out whether this had occurred, but actually illegal to find out, because in some jurisdictions (although not in others) any disclosure of what took place in jury deliberations is illegal.


dpmcder 09.29.22 at 7:12 pm

Jury nullification is a real power, but it is also a secret, hidden power that juries are not supposed to know they have… If a defense attorney clued jurors in to the existence of this power that they in fact hold, that could be grounds for a mistrial.

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