It means you’re a couple of jurors shy of a load

I see that an ex-cop up in Illinois was convicted today of killing his third wife. But that’s not what grabbed my attention. This did:

Earlier Thursday, the seven-man, five-woman jury asked the judge in a note: What does unanimous mean?

Their note to Judge Edward Burmila came after about 13 hours of deliberations. After a brief objection by the prosecution, who did not want the judge to respond at all, Burmila wrote that unanimous means that the verdict has to be agreed upon by all 12 jurors…

Yes. This question was asked by a group of people with the power of making a life-and-death decision.

I’ve seen juries selected before, and I know that it’s not exactly done on the basis of scholastic aptitude, but golly, folks. And it had seemed this jury had it so, um, together, as the story also noted: “The jury – which garnered attention for coordinating the color of their clothing through much of the trial…”

Yeahhh… If you can’t look smart, at least look like a team…

11 thoughts on “It means you’re a couple of jurors shy of a load

  1. Brad

    Yes, one could make excuses for them. For instance, there may have been one would-be “expert” on the jury who insisted there was some esoteric legal meaning to the word “unanimous,” and they were just asking the judge this to shut him or her up.

    But it doesn’t look good, folks. Speaking of looks, have I told you you all look great in red?…

  2. Doug Ross

    Maybe they thought the judge meant “anonymous” as in “We all agree but we don’t want anyone to know it”.

  3. Brad

    OK, so maybe it’s not exactly a life-and-death decision in the sense that there is no death penalty in Illinois.

    So I feel dumb for putting it that way. I feel like… I might be qualified for an Illinois jury…

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Look, many legal terms mean something specific and differ from common usage. It’s a good thing they asked to make sure.

    There are no dumb questions.

  5. Brad

    Yeahhh… I know… as I sort of acknowledged… I just couldn’t resist. I think maybe it was the color-coordinated thing that pushed me over the edge. I’m trying to imagine that scene inserted into “12 Angry Men:”

    LEE J. COBB: What the hell’s wrong with you? Everybody else wore blue today! It was obvious! It was the only color to wear! What’re you — special or something?

    HENRY FONDA: I just had a reasonable doubt that blue was the thing to wear…

  6. Brad

    The valedictorian of our high school class of 600 — Burl knows who I mean — used to ask the most shockingly stupid questions in physics class. That’s how he learned more than the rest of us….

  7. Brad

    And the worst editors assume they know the answers. That used to happen a lot on copy desks — editors introducing errors, assuming that they are “correcting” the text.

    Always ask first.

    That, by the way, is one of the great weaknesses of the morning newspaper model. Copy editors generally read the copy long after the reporter and his editor have gone home. So if they follow my rule of always asking first, they either generally leave the copy alone or make insufferable pests of themselves calling people at home, which most people are reluctant to do.

    Back in the days of afternoon papers, everybody was there in the newsroom at the same time — if the reporter was out, his editor (who would have gone over each word with the reporter) was there to answer the desk’s questions. But that era is long, long gone.

    Of course, the weakness of afternoon papers was that they were edited in such an extreme hurry, compared to the glacial pace of the a.m.s.

    After I made the switch to morning papers, I spent way too many evenings at the paper — when I should have been at home with my family — hanging around to answer the desk’s questions, rather than having the story the reporters and I had worked on all day messed up by the night folks.

    My greater worry, however, wasn’t the copy desk. It was the layout people, who might decide for their own convenience that the story I had carefully edited down to 20 inches was just right for a 10-inch hole. I stayed to lobby them, and to be there to make the cuts myself if my lobbying were unsuccessful.

    I was generally gone by the time the copy desk had it…

  8. Brad

    Of course, things are much worse now than when I last worked in a newsroom (1993).

    Now, the copy editors are often in another city, and have next to zero local knowledge — and don’t even know the people whose copy they are in a position to ruin.

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