The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom

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Times Books, 1994 - Jury - 285 pages
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The American system of trial by jury is unique. No other nation relies so heavily on ordinary citizens to make its most important decisions about law, business practice, and personal liberty - even death. Ideally, Americans take their participation seriously lest they someday stand before their peers seeking justice. But when an actual jury summons arrives in the mailbox, the pieties may prove evanescent. Jury duty is inconvenient. You may lose pay at work. Unless you are chosen to judge a case, you're likely to spend days in a waiting room at the courthouse. In short, unless you're a lawyer or a judge, you learn you're not really very important. How can the ideal of jury service coexist with the reality? This is the question Stephen J. Adler answers in The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom. Adler was dismayed to find that the jury system is in a deep crisis. Many legal thinkers have already suggested that the jury has outlived its effectiveness. The truth is our vaunted system of justice can't be trusted to produce sensible verdicts. Juries are sometimes capricious, often illogical, and in many cases plainly wrong. Lawyers routinely pay high-priced consultants to help them stack or manipulate the jury. Judges and ordinary citizens often unwittingly obstruct justice as they attempt to serve it. Yet the myth continues unexamined as the quality of jury verdicts plummets. Is the jury worth keeping? If it is, what can save it? Steve Adler takes us inside the jury room - a barrier not even television has been able to overcome. He has reconstructed seven cases: a brutal murder in Texas; Imelda Marcos's New York fraud trial; a manipulative drunk-driving case in Pennsylvania; aNorth Carolina lawsuit pitting two mammoth tobacco companies against each other; an unprecedented punitive-damage suit in small-town Colorado involving AIDS-tainted blood; a New Jersey love triangle that ended in gunfire; and the trial of an alleged exhibitionist in Phoenix. Through it all, we learn why juries go wrong, and how they can be made to go right. These dramatic stories bring the past and future of the jury to life. The Jury makes a compelling case for what the jury should be by showing us what it has become.

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THE JURY: The Ideal and the Reality of an American Institution

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

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 ... Read full review

The jury: trial and error in the American courtroom

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The Wall Sreet Journal's legal editor thinks our constitutionally guaranteed jury system works, but he thinks it should work better. Here he presents the rationale for improvement and his suggestions ... Read full review


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About the author (1994)

Adler is an Assistant Managing Editor at The Wall Street Journal.

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