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A Trial by Jury

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  262 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
When Princeton historian D. Graham Burnett answered his jury duty summons, he expected to spend a few days catching up on his reading in the court waiting room. Instead, he finds himself thrust into a high-pressure role as the jury foreman in a Manhattan trial. There he comes face to face with a stunning act of violence, a maze of conflicting evidence, and a parade of biza ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 15th 2002 by Vintage (first published September 11th 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Doug Branscombe
Nov 09, 2015 Doug Branscombe rated it it was amazing
Was given this book by a friend. A relatively short book giving an inside look at the minds of a jury asked to determine innocence or guilt in a murder trial. A very interesting look into the physical and logistical demands of being on a sequestered jury, but more so into the psychological demands of the same. You came away thinking that the jury deliberations are a very inexact science, that personality differences can certainly play a role, that sometimes jury instructions aren't very helpful. ...more
Brandon
Nov 20, 2016 Brandon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I had to read this for my judicial process class. At first I was not sure what to think and I was just going to skim through the book. However, as soon as I started I reading I was immediately captured by the author's concise description of the murder itself, the trial, and the jury process. Not only is it entertaining, but it also quite informative for those of us that learn better through practical stories. It is a great book overall that gives a peak into the historically secretative process ...more
Eric_W
Nov 14, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
Trials are a "retelling, in a string of words . . . a distressing distortion of the cluttered thickness of things as they happen."

Burnett is a Princeton history professor who writes of his experience as the foreman of a jury for a murder trial. He became foreman, when the original foreman just disappeared, just before the deliberations were to begin. Burnett considered the experience "the most intense sixty-six hours [hours of jury deliberation; the entire experience lasted seventeen days] of my
...more
Kaion
Dec 06, 2009 Kaion rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
A Trial By Jury is a nonfiction account of Burnett's own experience serving in the jury of a murder trial. It brings up some interesting ideas and is a nice read if you're interested in matters of law and the justice system. The idea that merely and incredibly being citizens and alive as people somehow makes us necessary and qualified to judge someone's guilt or innocence is a cornerstone of the criminal justice system in the United States, and yet makes one wonder how that comes about. Here, Bu ...more
Eric Farr
Jan 27, 2013 Eric Farr rated it really liked it
This book is a nonfiction account of one murder trial, focusing especially on the jury deliberations in which the author took part. It is equal parts basic introduction to theories of jurisprudence, dramatic recounting of a murder trial and subsequent jury deliberations, and reflective consideration and criticism of both the jury process and the abstract world of academic life. The prose is clean and clear, and even the most densely complex theoretical considerations are explained efficiently. I ...more
Edward Weiss
Jan 31, 2016 Edward Weiss rated it it was amazing
I don’t believe many contemporary novels deserve a 5-STAR rating. Neither should you if you ever read the classics. But, D. Graham Burnett’s A Trial By Jury is one of those rare ones that do, though maybe for its content as opposed to its great writing, which was still very good.
First, he tells us the difference between thinkers and the rest of the people; thinkers think, they think, they talk about their thoughts, and then they think again; the rest of us live in the real world and have to take
...more
Jeff Doucette
Dec 14, 2009 Jeff Doucette rated it really liked it
A memoir of a young academic who's selected to serve as foreman on a jury in an NYC murder case. It's a very quick read--very economically written--and provides a good overview of the limited ability of the jury system to reliably render justice.

The author discusses his frustration with the limited information--none remotely dispositive--upon which the jury must base its decision. To be sure, the case is a difficult one: the accused claims self-defense, there were no witnesses to the murder, ch
...more
B
Jun 05, 2013 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is the story of one man's experience on a New York state jury. Very interesting. Real jury stories, I think, are not often shared beyond people's circle of friends and inquiring attorneys from that trial.

This book is aided by what appears to be an interesting and socially and morally complex trial.

The narrator comes across as awfully smug, self-conscious, and judgmental, but he seems to know it, which mitigates the negative effect. At any rate, I'd be scared to be on a jury with this guy.
...more
Connie
Sep 29, 2014 Connie rated it really liked it
This was a book about a people serving on a jury where most of them probably feel the defendant IS guilty. But feeling's aren't the arbitrator of the verdict. The author is an intelligent writer who takes the reader through the agony of making a decision by the facts and the law, even though it may mean a not guilty verdict, for someone who may be guilty. As I was reading this, I was trying to keep an open mind on the facts presented, and even though I had much more information than the jury, it ...more
Kris
Jun 21, 2012 Kris rated it liked it
This is an account of Burnett's experience on the jury for a murder trial. It is not meant to be about the facts of the case, but about how the people on the jury came to their verdict. My curiosity left me wanting more details of the case, but I understand why the author only included what he did. Having served on a jury myself (though for a case not nearly as long or serious as this), I found that Burnett's description of the quandary of the juror (having to make a judgement without being able ...more
Phil
Nov 28, 2015 Phil rated it really liked it
Probably no one can tell you what it would be like to be a juror on a murder trial. Burnett doesn't try. His book is good because it gets right to the point of telling you what it was like to be the foreman, as a humanities-type professorial "poetaster," on the murder trial of Monte Virginia Milcray, accused in the stabbing death of Randolph Cuffee. Neither gratuitous not sanitized, Burnett gives a detailed and pointed account of his experience assimilating the evidence, observing the lawyers' a ...more
James Tharpe
Sep 14, 2014 James Tharpe rated it liked it
Burnet does a great job of introspection and intellectualization of his first-hand account of his experience as a juror on a murder trial. The rest comes off as a tad lazy. This is Burnett's account of the ordeal and Burnett's alone. It's heavy on the facts of the case that he could recall, but he admittedly didn't bother verifying his account of events or the case through research or the involvement of others that are part of the story. This approach is not without merit, if only Burnett had be ...more
Liza
Mar 27, 2010 Liza rated it liked it
This was a quick read and I appreciated the insight into jury duty--seeing as I have yet to be called! And, when I do get called, it is unlikely that I'll be called for a murder trial. This author, though coming off a bit elitist at times, wrote non-fiction extraordinarily well, making this read so much like a narrative that I got through it in no time. He raised some very interesting questions about the law versus justice and what our responsibilities are as citizens.
Ted
May 06, 2009 Ted rated it liked it
I gained a new understanding of the power the state has over it's citizens. On the other hand, I discoved a hatred of this power. We apparantly have no rights as a juror - just slaves with a job thrust upon them. I write this just after getting a juror questionaire for my county. I have very mixed feelings about this endeavor.
Renae Mackley
Aug 06, 2014 Renae Mackley rated it really liked it
I found this book interesting in an intellectual/philosophical way. I enjoyed hearing the process of how circumstances played into changing or solidifying the minds of jurors and how they came to their conclusion. The case is viewed to some degree and I skipped some of the gruesome or unappealing details. The portrayal of this juror's experience is well written. For mature readers only.
David Quinn
Jan 02, 2015 David Quinn rated it it was ok
D. Graham Burnett is a pompous jerk and if you don't believe me you can read this book and judge for yourself. Maybe I just don't like books by smarmy know-it-alls. The premise is interesting enough and the workings and dynamics of the jury room are interesting but the author overwhelms the story with his biases, enormous intellect and ego.
Matthew
Sep 19, 2010 Matthew rated it liked it
Shelves: legal
An interesting first-person view into being on a jury in New York in 2000 where the crime was murder. The author is clearly an academic, as he occasionally weighs in on the place of a jury in our current legal system.
Sara
Feb 13, 2009 Sara rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who has served on a jury!
I stumbled upon this book and breezed right through it. While this is certainly not a ground-breaking piece of literature, the author provides an interesting look into the unique experience of jury duty. If you have ever served on one, you will definitely find this book worth the read.
Loretto
Jun 27, 2012 Loretto rated it liked it
I think the author truly captured the feeling of frustration a juror feels. You are never given all the information you need to make the "right" decision. The only case I sat on as a juror was more about the lawyers than the defendant. A real insight into the workings of a real trial.
Celine
Mar 22, 2011 Celine rated it liked it
Interesting look into jury duty written by someone who was selected to be the foreman on a murder case in NYC. I got annoyed during the deliberations piece, in all honesty, but realize the interpretation of law and the heavy responsibility the U.S. justice system puts on jurors can be complex.
E
Nov 19, 2012 E rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Yeah, hmmmm. Another up and down book. Anytime I was thinking I needed to put it down for a bit and have a look at something else, the author would come up with a comment or insight that clicked and I would continue reading.
Etienne
Sep 26, 2011 Etienne rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed reading this book. It got lots of negative reviews (condescending author, etc) but I found the author brutally honest even if it didn't always make him look great. I understand what he went through as jury foreman.
Chris
Mar 26, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
I think I remember this book being quite interesting to read. Just reading the short paragraph about it almost makes me want to read it over again just out of curiosity.
Royce Ratterman
Sep 29, 2016 Royce Ratterman rated it really liked it
Read for personal research.
Overall, a good book for the researcher and enthusiast.
I found this book's contents helpful and inspiring - number rating relates to the book's contribution to my needs.
Jesse
May 07, 2014 Jesse rated it liked it
An interesting look at life in the jury room of a murder trial. Very opinionated and very much one man's side of the story. Still interesting though.
Aaron
Oct 08, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it
Very readable account of a historian's experience as foreman of a jury considering a murder trial. Great insight into the messy pursuit of justice.
Jared Della Rocca
David black
Cristal
Cristal rated it really liked it
Nov 28, 2015
Sara
Sara rated it liked it
May 11, 2009
Kristin Millay
Kristin Millay rated it it was amazing
Jun 14, 2016
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