It was just last week that I discussed a personal injury attorney that talked himself off a jury I was picking, and how this was a lost opportunity to see trials from a wholly new perspective.
Then in today’s New York Times (reg. req.) comes this remarkable piece about the Scooter Libby jury:
Before the jurors departed on Wednesday afternoon, they filed into the courtroom, all but one wearing bright red T-shirts with a white valentine heart over their clothes, to the uncertain laughter of many in the courtroom.
But as one juror, a retired North Carolina schoolteacher, rose to speak, Judge Walton became visibly anxious that the juror might say something inappropriate that could threaten the trial. Jurors are not supposed to speak and are supposed to make any concerns known through notes to the bench.
The juror said they were wearing the shirts to express their fondness for the judge and the court staff on Valentine’s Day. He then added, to the judge’s growing discomfort, that they were unanimous in this sentiment, but they would all be independent in judging the evidence in the Libby case.
The sole juror who apparently declined to wear the shirt was a woman who had been a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Critics of the jury system like to think that juries are dumb; that they are all malleable creatures that will do whatever a lawyer asks of them. In doing so, they conveniently forget that juries are usually comprised of community members no different from one’s own friends, relatives and neighbors.
I am reminded of this daily, as I look at four Watergate trial images, including two of the jury, that grace my office wall , souvenirs of a Queens medical malpractice trial where I represented the estate of the artist. One is above and you can see them all at my law firm website.
The jury sketches (and Scooter Libby’s jury) should be a constant reminder that power doesn’t rest in the hands of one all powerful judge, but in the hands of your neighbors. Who should never be underestimated.