What goes on in a jury room

Challenging the Privacy of Statements Inside the Jury Room – NYTimes.com. is an absorbing story −especially for those of you who have never been on a deliberating jury and don’t know what goes on behind that closed door:

WASHINGTON — In the summer of 2006, not far from Mount Rushmore, a truck collided with a motorcycle. The rider lost part of his leg.

The rider sued, but a South Dakota jury sided with the truck driver. A few days later, one of the jurors approached the rider’s lawyer. The juror, Stacey Titus, said he was having second thoughts.

Those qualms set in motion a Supreme Court case to be argued next month, one that will examine the privacy of jury deliberations and consider how to address dishonesty during jury selection.

In a sworn statement, Mr. Titus said the jury’s forewoman, Regina Whipple, had allowed her judgment to be warped by her family’s experiences.

The Times article goes on to mention several cases in which jurors lied during the voir dire selection process and/or behaved shockingly in the jury room.

We’re aware it can happen, but the jury selection processes I was involved in posed so many fairly clever questions to potential jurors, it would have been hard not to spot liars. Or so I thought.

Still, do read this, especially if you feel that a jury should decide your case. And do look at the final short paragraphs. There’s a twist good enough for an Agatha Christie mystery.

Definition of voir dire (literally, in French, “to see, to say,” although Black’s Law Dictionary says, “Law French ‘to speak the truth'” − don’t know where they got that because “truth” in French is “vrai”): “A preliminary examination of a prospective juror by a judge or lawyer to decide whether the prospect is qualified and suitable to serve on a jury.” Yeah, I’ll go with that one.


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