Jacko jurors' lesson for British justice

The delight on the editorial floor of the Ten O’Clock News must have
been unbridled. After 14 long weeks of evidence, and days of jury
deliberation, the Michael Jackson trial came to its dramatic, live
conclusion right on cue, just after 10pm. Even Jacko’s choreographer
couldn’t have timed it better.

And the BBC duly notched up eight million viewers.

But the real revelation, for British viewers, came a little later. After delivering their 10 “not guilty” verdicts,
the jurors were ushered into a press conference suite where they were
able to talk freely about why they reached their conclusions. In the
end, the hard evidence against the singer simply didn’t add up to very
much, they explained.

It was a fascinating insight into workings of their minds – and into the workings of American justice.

One explained how she’d been put off by the way one accuser’s mother had snapped her fingers.

Had
they been British jurors, no such scene would be imaginable. Here, any
juror who talks about what goes on behind the locked door of the jury
room would be risking contempt of court charges.

And that means
not only no press conferences, but even academic study is forbidden. It
also means, crucially for journalists, that there’s no way of finding
out if and how they’re affected by media coverage of the case they’ve
been trying.

In the interests of open justice, let them talk.

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