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.
"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)
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Trial By Jury is a book that entertains and educates. Burnett is modest about his role as the jury foreman in a murder trial and the deep sense of responsibility he brought to the role. This should be required reading for students at the high school or college level. It is a frightening prospect of how easily the work of a jury can go awry were it not for the willingness of a few good souls willing and able to take the work seriously. Four stars only because I struggled to grasp the facts of the crime itself, but that may well be part of the message and no fault of anyone's. A quibble. This is an important work as well as fascinating. I could only imagine the disintegration that might've happened, had the jury not been able to reach a verdict after four days. Like every good and important work, this account raises more questions than it settles.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Burnett did a great job of conveying what it’s like to sit on a jury. At times I felt like I was sitting in the jury room experiencing the frustration at some of the other jurors during deliberations. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it held my interest from the start to the very end. Great read.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
"A Trial by Jury" is more like a trial of patients. I did not enjoy and to be quite honest I was often annoyed with this book. I felt that author spent much of his time talking at the listener instead of to the listener. For the most part I was bored with the reader and the read. I just couldn't wait for it to end
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful