October 30, 2002
7:47 AM   Subscribe

"Jury of your peers," perhaps... but a celebrity juror on a celebrity case can certainly open a can of worms. Especially when they've worked together in the past. (more inside)
posted by Fofer (13 comments total)
I swear, I'm not interested in celebrity justice any more than your typical jaded Los Angeleno. However, I'm bothered by the jury selection in the Winona case.

Isn't the process supposed to weed out those with potential conflicts of interest?

In this case, it appears a juror (a well-known producer, with a strong personality, one likely to influence other jurors) has worked directly with the defendant in the past. At the very least, they've interacted casually at Oscar parties celebrating her nominations in "The Age of Innocence" and "Little Women," movies released under his watch. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd be interested in working with her again, once this little hubbub dies down.

So how can a judge (or prosecutor) excuse that likelihood? If I were in jury selection, and it came out that the defendant was a coworker from an old job, wouldn't I be excused? Why is this any different? With 10,000 jurors to choose from daily, why leave anything to chance? Why invite more scorn from the skeptics, already disgusted by a warped legal system?
posted by Fofer at 7:50 AM on October 30, 2002

Micky Kaus on the remainder of the jury (remember, the jurisdiction is Hollywood):
The rest of the Ryder jury is less controversial. It includes two disgruntled French auteurs, one member of the Dogma group, three highly-regarded script doctors, a veteran "indie" actress and the television voice of the Ziploc "Gripper Zipper." After that, it's all independent producers.
But seriously, folks, what Fofer said. IANAL, but I thought knowing the defendant was a no-no for jury members.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:01 AM on October 30, 2002

Sorry, Mickey Kaus. >.<
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:02 AM on October 30, 2002

Yeah, I read that this morning and thought, "what the hell?" If I were some poor guy who got busted for shoplifting from Walmart, I'd be pretty pissed when she ends up getting acquitted.
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:06 AM on October 30, 2002

This case just gets more and more surreal. I can't believe the "my director asked me to do it" defense. Um, yeah... and? Whose hands were all over the merchandise in question? Oh yeah, yours.
posted by mkultra at 8:15 AM on October 30, 2002

I am not particularly interested in Ms. Ryder's case, but I do wonder if anyone can explain where the term "jury of your peers" originated? It is used a good bit, but as far as I know it appears nowhere in the laws of the United States. The 6th Amendment to the constitution does, however, specify an "impartial jury."
posted by TedW at 8:52 AM on October 30, 2002

TedW: The term originated in England, whence came our common-law system. Many people misunderstand "peer" to mean "member of the nobility," but the earlier meaning, and the one applicable here, is "an equal in civil standing or rank; one's equal before the law" (OED). Here's a good summary (from this site):
It was under these circumstances, that the Great Charter of English Liberties was granted. The barons of England, sustained by the common people, having their king in their power, compelled him, as the price of his throne, to pledge himself that he would punish no freeman for a violation of any of his laws, unless with the consent of the peers—that is, the equals—of the accused.
Chapter xxxix of the Magna Carta prescribes that "no freeman shall be arrested or detained in prison or deprived of his freehold . . .or in any way molested. . .unless by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land."
posted by languagehat at 10:15 AM on October 30, 2002

I thought you were entitled to a jury of people who couldn't manage to get out of jury duty...

...actually, I've never served on a jury, and kind of want to, because I think it'd be an interesting experience.

(Trial By Jury by D. Graham Burnett is really good and gives some insight to jury service.)
posted by Vidiot at 1:15 PM on October 30, 2002

I live in L.A., and must say that with the institution of the "one-day one-trial" system it's become increasingly difficult to get out of jury duty. Even wealthy power-brokers I work with end up giving in. On the plus side, it's usually only one day. On the negative, you may get a summons once a year. And the judges are very, very strict about who gets excused. The last time I went down to the courthouse, there were probably 350 people there... about 75 asked to be released, I'm sure had some very good excuses (financial hardship, work responsibility, etc.) All of us were escorted into a 2nd room, where we were told that none of us were excused. Totally bizarre procedure.
posted by Fofer at 1:37 PM on October 30, 2002

Fofer: Have you ever actually been on a jury? We all dread it and try to get out of it, but when you find yourself on one it turns out to be a fascinating experience; everyone I know who's done it has come out feeling good about having done it (even if appalled at certain things about the criminal justice system).
posted by languagehat at 1:43 PM on October 30, 2002

I was just on Jury Duty two weeks ago. My report (self-link, obviously). I didn't necessarily come out feeling good about having done it.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 4:35 PM on October 30, 2002

languagehat: no I haven't, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. I've been summoned twice, once in Beverly Hills a few years back and once verrry far away in Orange County (more than the "20 mile limit" they claim, but still they insisted it wasn't a mistake.) I reported both times, and both times never got so far as to even be questioned... and was not called back to report after the first day. I imagine I'll get my chance soon enough though.
posted by Fofer at 5:38 PM on October 30, 2002

Shadowkeeper: Just read (and enjoyed) your report; I commiserate about the lousy conditions (it used to be like that in NYC 20 years ago, but things have much improved), and the attorneys' incompetence sounds par for the course, but isn't it a unique experience to sit with eleven other people and argue over the fate of a fellow human being, frustrated by having only part of the picture but knowing that it's up to you rather than some judge or ruler? I'm not saying the experience is fun, but it really made me feel in my bones what it means to be a participating citizen.
posted by languagehat at 9:33 AM on October 31, 2002

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