BY SAM FIELDS
At what point in time did jury duty become a business opportunity for jurors?
In the case of George Zimmerman Juror B-37, did that occur before or after the verdict was announced late Saturday night, July 13, 2013.
Could it have been during voir dire? Or during the trial?
It’s hard to believe that it was not before the verdict. I say that because less than two days after the verdict, Juror B-37 was on CNN telling Anderson Cooper that she going to cash in on her jury duty by writing a book. And she had already hired an agent. That was a busy 40 hours.
Or was it 40 hours?
How do we know that a family member, at the behest of B-37, wasn’t lining up an agent before the verdict came in?
One thing clear is that B-37 (I’m pretty sure she will not publish under that name) is not the first “juror turned writer” giving us the inside scoop of the latest “trial of the century”.
Here are just some of my favorites.
Remember the 1990’s trials of the Menendez brothers, the California siblings who murdered their parents? A juror named Hazel Thornton kept a diary of the first trial. If you have nothing else to do…and I mean really nothing else to do… check out her inside story: “Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menendez Juror.”
It should come as no surprise that an O.J. Simpson juror followed up in 1995. What might surprise you is that four of those jurors turned author. The first was Michael Know with “The Private Diary of an OJ Juror.” Not to be outdone three other members of jury, Amanda Cooley, Carrie Bess and Marsha Rubin-Jackson, cashed in with “Madam Foreman: A Rush To Judgement?”
If three jurors writing a book is better than one, how about the seven who penned “We, The Jury—Deciding The Scott Peterson Case?”
Want something a bit closer to home? Try Dennis DeMartin’s self-published book. The 32 pages purportedly gives the inside scoop of the trial of Palm Beach polo and air conditioning mogul John Goodman who killed someone while driving drunk.
None of this would matter…except that it does.
The appearance of a miscarriage of justice is just as damaging as the real thing. Both undermine the public’s confidence the judiciary.
How can we have complete trust in the jury system if we have to be concerned that juror conduct and deliberation may have a financial implication?
Do you think a Guilty, Not Guilty or a hung jury would sell more books?
Do we really want a system where we have to consider that possibility?
So here are a couple of proposals to take the money option out of the process:
The Legislature passes a law creating a five-year ban on jurors seeking financial gain from jury service. (You think George Zimmerman will be of interest in 2018? I doubt it.) But, let me be the first to state that this type of law might run afoul of The First Amendment.
So maybe we should turn this over to the Judge during voir dire by asking all potential jurors if they will agree, under oath, to a five year commitment.
Saying “no” would not automatically disqualify a juror. However, either side could strike any and all jurors who refuse to agree.
Nobody can say that injecting a financial element in jury duty alters the outcome. On the other hand, no one can say it doesn’t.
And that’s the problem.