Twelve Good Men and True

The Jury

Tomorrow I'm starting a fortnight of Jury Service. I've done it before, in 1985; it was a right bore then and I suppose it will be a right bore now. Of course (unlike America where jury deliberations can become the subject of newspaper articles) in Britain they are strictly secret and I can't write about them. That would be to show Contempt of Court: a legal expression which brings to mind Mae West's famous line in the film My Little Chickadee:

JUDGE Are you trying to show contempt for this court?
MAENo. I'm trying to hide it.

Of course, court scenes make such good film and TV drama that we all think we are familiar with the process: in real life it's not like the films - for one thing, in most cases the proceedings are slower and go on for much longer and into fine detail. The irony is that the general public is much more familiar with the American court system, which, though it is initially based on the British one, has significant differences: for a start, jurors aren't quizzed by counsels to determine their suitability prior to accepting or refusing them (although in Britain counsels can challenge up to four jurors without giving a reason, or any juror for apparent unsuitability).

The most famous court drama is of course Twelve Angry Men (1957), in which Henry Fonda stands out for the accused's innocence against the other eleven jurors. However, it is a drama, not reality, and watching it you may notice that there is a serious flaw in the case tailored to each of the eleven - for example, a witness who allegedly woke to see the accused through his window, but who was short-sighted: one juror wore glasses and knew that the witness wouldn't have been sleeping in them. And so on. Good exciting drama: but nothing like the real thing. But then, who would want to watch the real thing?

Posted: Sun - July 22, 2007 at 08:26 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM