Thursday, May 17, 2007

Runaway Jury

I have both watched and read John Grisham's - The Runaway Jury. Personally I liked the movie more than the book for a variety of reasons (thought a gun case was better to use than a cigarette case is one reason as well as the good acting). Though to be fair I probably would have enjoyed the book more than I did had I read it before I saw the movie. I found both the movie and the book to be enjoyable.

Runaway Jury had a few different themes. One is the power and influence of big corporations in this case it was the cigarette companies. I had no problem with this since big business's do have shady dealings and have lots of power and influence. The amount of money some companies make is staggering and sadly people can be bought. Many big business's can get away with things that regular people can't simply because the business's have enough money to make people look the other way, confuse the issue, pay people to lie or edit things, or pay the fine and continue as they were. If you have enough money and influence laws can be ignored or got around.

Another theme in Runaway Jury is the abuse of the legal system. I did not find this to be completely believable but jury tampering does exist. It is a fact that potential jurors are monitored, investigated, and are discredited so as to not be selected for duty. Jurors are bribed and/or intimidated to vote in a certain manner and they are given outside information to either influence their vote or to get a mistrial.

I'm going to list some ways of jury tampering I have read about in the news.
  1. Have a conversation about the case with in ear shot of a jury member. A lawyer may talk to his client while in an elevator with a juror.
  2. Jurors will talk with each other as well as others about the case even though they are not supposed to. This is pretty much unavoidable since in many cases it's really the only thing that the jury members have in common.
  3. The media is also an influence on jurors because a large enough case will be in the news and the jurors may be swayed by the news.
  4. Jurors or their family have been threatened. Some cases even have anonymous juries because the jury may be endangered.
  5. Bribery. Well this is just obvious.
  6. The Judge may influence the jury by instructing them before deliberation. I'm not speaking about reminding the jury of the charges, statutes violated, or punishment mandated. A judge may give a list of doe's and don't that will unjustly influence the jury or will give very confusing information to confuse the issues.
  7. Given outside information or even false information by an outside informant.
  8. Jury members have attempted to influence the other jury members into voting their way. An example of this is Laura Kriho who in 1996 counseled fellow jurors to reject a narcotics law.
The last theme in Runaway Jury was the little man defeating big business. This I found much less believable though vital for the book/movie. Big corporations have far too much power and influence to be easily defeated. Two people no matter how smart really don't have much chance of defeating a large corporation's vast resources. If this was attempted in real life I think the big business would do something to get a mistrial rather than take the chance that the person will sway the jury their way (it being an unknown person them planting a person in the jury to do this would be more believable). I found the last part of the book completely unbelievable namely giving the money back (even though it was used to acquire a fortune).

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