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Publisher's Summary

Jury duty happens to everyone. When the call came to Graham Burnett, a young historian, he had a shock in store. A Trial by Jury is his startling account of how performing this familiar civic duty challenged him in ways he never thought possible and turned into one of the most consuming experiences of his life. Burnett begins with the story of the trial: a body with multiple stab wounds found in a New York apartment, intimations of cross-dressing, male prostitution, mistaken identity. And then, the unexpected drama: Burnett finds himself appointed the foreman, with the responsibility of leading the increasingly frenetic deliberations within the black box of the jury room.
Soon he is sequestered - which is to say marooned - with 11 others, a group of people who view their task, and often one another, with palpable distaste. Among his colleagues: a vacuum-cleaner repairman cum urban missionary, a young actress, and a man apparently floundering in a borderland between real life and daytime television.
As Burnett steers the contentious politics of their temporary no-exit society toward the verdict, he undergoes an unexpected awakening. Having been plucked from his cozy nest in the world of books and ideas and then plunged into the netherworld of lurid crime, he learns the limits of what intellect alone can accomplish in the real world. Above all, Burnett discovers firsthand the terrifying ultimate power of the state and the agonies of being asked to do justice within the rigid dictates of the law.
Part true crime, part political treatise, part contemplation of right, wrong, and the power of words, A Trial by Jury is a mesmerizing narrative of one man's encounter with crime and punishment, American style. It profoundly affects one's sense of the privileges - and the perils - of citizenship.
©2001 D. Graham Burnett (P)2001 Random House Inc., Random House AudioBooks, a Division of Random House Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Until now, the standard-bearer for jury-room dynamics has been Twelve Angry Men; Burnett's narrative, while significantly more understated, is no less illuminating." (The New Yorker)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Keri on 08-14-05


The author was very detailed in the jury decision making process. It seemed to drag a great deal to the point you could fast forward through a great deal and the jury would be at the same place. Someone unfamiliar with the judicial system may enjoy this more than a person who is well versed in trials.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By David on 07-09-03

Been there

A very interesting account of a juror's experience. His exasperating ordeal during juror deliberations closely parallels my own experience as a juror on two criminal trials. Getting twelve people to agree on anything is well nigh impossible, yet this is essential to our justice system. This window into how difficult it can be to be a responsible juror is thought provoking and very engaging.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By David on 03-24-10

Rather pretensious

The clue to this book is rather in the description, which if you think about it is rather long and cmplicated certainly for a book thats only 5 hours long - it goes on a bit. The story is ok and midly interesting, but I found the author a bit full of himself and rather a 'moral liberal' - critical of the way things are; but unable to offer alternatives. Felt a little as if I was being preached at.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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