The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom

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9780812923636: The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom

The legal editor of The Wall Street Journal presents an incisive study of the workings of the American jury system, discussing the potential injustices of the jury process and the steps necessary to reform the system. 25,000 first printing. Tour.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A glaring indictment of America's jury system, by the Wall Street Journal's legal editor. Reconstructing jury deliberations in six recent trials, civil and criminal, Adler illustrates how far modern juries deviate from the ideal of 12 citizens meting out justice. He reveals how lawyers use peremptory challenges to exclude the most educated and analytic people from jury service, opting instead for the ignorant, the malleable, the demographically correct. (He reports that one famous defense lawyer likes to stack the jury with fat people, who presumably lack self-control and won't demand it of the defendant.) He shows how the savviest lawyers employ market-research techniques, using focus groups whose responses, during mock trials, dictate the actual presentation in court. And Adler tells what transpired in the jury rooms, as mostly blue collar, mostly befuddled citizens were asked to determine whether a tobacco company violated the impossibly abstruse antitrust Robinson-Patman Act, and whether a byzantine flow chart linked Imelda Marcos to secret bank accounts in the US. Through no fault of their own, he concedes, jurors are guilty of ``missing key points, focusing on irrelevant issues, succumbing to barely recognized prejudices, failing to see through the cheapest appeals to sympathy or hate, and generally botching the job.'' Adler's verdict: The jury system is a wreck but salvageable--if the judiciary eliminates peremptory challenges, translates the standard legalistic jury instructions into plain English, permits jurors to ask questions and take notes, and provides ``reasonable creature comfort'' so that fewer people will seek exclusion from jury service. Adler is condescending toward the jurors he has interviewed, but his case against the system is strong, his writing is snappy, and his solutions are promising. A highly readable expos‚ coupled to a provoking argument. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

We respect juries for their supposedly high-minded deliberations, but they are too often ineffective or overwhelmed in both civil and criminal cases, suggests Wall Street Journal legal editor Adler, who here analyzes deliberations in seven trials. The working-class federal jury in Manhattan that in 1990 cleared wealthy Philippine former First Lady Imelda Marcos of all charges grew to identify with her as a "fellow sufferer." Overmatched jurors in a seven-month trial in 1990 concerning a price war between two tobacco companies judged the case on the basis of witnesses' personalities, not testimony. Yet Adler wants to bolster the jury system, an anomaly among democracies--even Great Britain, source of the jury, relies more on judges. Among several well-founded reforms, he proposes scrapping professional exemptions and limiting lawyers' peremptory challenges to seating jurors, as well as allowing jurors to ask questions and take notes. Although the proposals don't fully address the problems posed by very complex cases or the variability of tort awards, Adler's book should further a debate that, after the Rodney King and Menendez cases, has new urgency. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Adler, Stephen J.
Published by U.S.A.: Crown (1994)
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