My debut novel, Righteous Judgment, is a cat-and-mouse police procedural. The vigilante’s first victim, targeted “for a greater good,” is law professor Jennifer Bolton. My experience as a cynical ex-lawyer no doubt influenced how I wrote about Jen, along with the other lawyers in the novel. How fitting, then, that my first blog post discusses a legal issue from a layman’s perspective.
First topic: I am unlikely to publish a story that glamorizes a holdout juror.
There are times when one person is right while the remainder of a group is wrong – I’ve been that one person, on occasion, and I’ve also been part of the remainder, sometimes. There has also been a history of such obscene prejudice and misinformation that there would often be only one or two people out of twelve making judgments on the facts rather than from bias. We should all be grateful for the individuals who have taken a stand in such circumstances.
But we’re humans, we’re impressionable, each to a different degree. Jury deliberations happen, for most of us, once or twice in a lifetime. But we’re exposed to dozens of fictional portrayals of that process, stretched for dramatic effect, and to selective reporting of aberrations: The holdout. Glorified. Overexposed. Lambasted? What proportion of people prefer negative attention to none at all—one out of twelve, perhaps?
The vast majority of jurors serve thoughtfully and competently. But we simply hear too often of holdouts abandoning judgment altogether, no doubt influenced by the written word. Confronted for explanations, approached to seek common ground, propositioned to compromise, we hear of holdouts unable to cite any single factual predicate they disagree with or any reason for their doubt.
We’re humans, just humans. Experience shows there isn’t enough balance in our upbringing to allow romanticizing juror dissent for its own sake.