Thursday, January 24, 2008

Twelve angry men? Not so much

Went to Glasgow for jury duty yesterday at the High Court of Justiciary. Back when I was a daily newspaper reporter in New Zealand [near the dawn of time], I spent a year in the High Court at Auckland covering murder trials and other serious cases. By the end of that year I was burnt out and never wanted to set foot inside a courtroom again. Fast forward to yesterday and I was quite looking forward to the experience, especially as it offered the chance to experience a trial from a juror's perspective.

What I'd forgotten was how much hanging around and waiting is involved. Still, it was fascinating to observe the differences. A High Court trial in Scotland is quite different from the sort of thing you see in courtroom dramas on film or TV. For a start, 15 jurors are selected, not twelve. The days when a jury would only comprise men are long gone. There was no objecting to particular jurors, no challenges to have people excluded from those chosen at random to fill the jury seats.

I didn't get picked, so my experience of being a juror remains playing the role of number 5 in a production of Twelve Angry Men. We didn't have enough men to fill the cast, so our version became five angry men and seven formidable women. It's amazing what you can achieve on stage once you abandon convention. There's a famous all-male version of the ballet Swan Lake, and a company in Japan once staged the musical Me and My Girl with an all female cast. Some things are never what you expect.

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