I began work on Three Sets of Twelve intrigued by a
contemporary notion that juries are assembled based on a cross-sectional
ideal. That is, a cross-section of Americans could be chosen to serve
on a jury, but despite broad personal and demographic diversity, they
would arrive with a mutual standard of right and wrong accepted by
all Americans. This line of thinking had me believing that juries
are all essentially the same.
I learned, however, that to the contrary, the jury selection process
emphasizes the differences of potential jurors. Lawyers on both sides
of a case attempt to shape the collective personality the jury will
develop during the trial and as it deliberates, by evaluating the
individual histories and predilections of each of its members. Judges
exercise their responsibility to excuse those with significant prejudices
about issues related to the case.
I realized too that there is a collective wisdom that develops behind
the closed doors of the jury room. There, a unique group of distinct
individuals who make up a jury weigh the body of shared information
and experience to deliver a joint decision, the verdict. It is at
this point, the end of the jury process, that the cross-sectional
ideal emerges. The jurors leave, transformed by the gravity of this
service they have rendered. They carry that experience out of the
courtroom into their daily lives, each in his or her own way.