Monday, January 31, 2005

Michael Jackson's jury selection begins

Today the jury selection in Michael Jackson's trial begins in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. Many people have already predicted that, in terms of notoriety and the challenge it represents to the court, the Jackson trial will rival O.J. Simpson's. I agree. Before the O.J. trial, what did we know about him? He was a great football player and appeared in some funny commercials. Contrast that with the downward trajectory of Michael Jackson’s career, the bizarre facts and wild rumors we’ve heard about his increasingly strange lifestyle and the goings-on at his ranch, Neverland. Add to that the generic prejudice that people have against sexual abuse of young children. Worst of all from a defense standpoint is Jackson’s widely publicized settlement in 1993 over similar charges of sexual impropriety with a young boy. “Pretrial publicity” hardly seems to capture all of this!

I was intrigued that Judge Melville, who is presiding over the trial, allowed Jackson to release a video statement proclaiming his innocence, responding to secret grand jury testimony leaks. Other than that, Judge Melville has imposed a gag order on the lawyers and the parties. And unlike O.J., there will be no cameras in the courtroom for the Jackson trial. The New York Times reports there will be "re-enactments" of the testimony broadcasted after the testimony is presented.

This promises to be a fascinating jury trial. Let the jury selection begin!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Welcome to Jury Blog!

Hello and welcome to Jury Blog, a place to share news and views about the jury. If you think about it, the jury is a very unusual institution. Under what other circumstances do we randomly select a dozen citizens with no special qualifications and ask them to resolve some of our society's most urgent and important disputes? I've been studying, researching, and writing about the jury as an institution for more than 30 years, and have been looking for ways to share what I've learned (more on my background here).

For blog history buffs, the Jury Blog was hatched in a January 2005 discussion with faculty from the University of Wisconsin Law School. UW law professor Ann Althouse (who has her own blog) encouraged me to consider blogging as a vehicle for communicating my knowledge and generating discussion about juries. Thanks, Professor Althouse, for a push in the blogging direction.