#2. Turning the Jury Deliberation into a Bible Study
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There is a reason why, in any court case, you're not allowed to do your own research, even if it's as innocent as looking up legal terms on Wikipedia during the trial (yes, that happened). It kind of defeats the purpose -- you're supposed to work only with what the witnesses and attorneys give you. And regardless of your background or opinions, you're making a judgment purely on the letter of the law.
So hopefully you can see why it was a problem when, in 1994, a Colorado jury trying to decide if convicted murderer Robert Harlan should get the death penalty turned to the Bible for an answer.
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"It clearly states here: "If a Harlan of Colorado engages in sin, his life shall be forfeit after a payment of
two unwed daughters and three herds of lamb." Boom."
During their deliberations, the jury members began taking the Good Book into court with them and reading out some relevant passages from Leviticus, even passing around printed excerpts, in an attempt to figure out what the Old Testament Jews would do in this situation. Unfortunately, the court has strict rules about using outside materials in jury deliberations -- whether it's an episode of CSI or the Word of God, it's simply not allowed.
"You're telling me I brought all these Night Court DVDs for nothing?"
Harlan's defense lawyers caught wind of the jury's divine inspiration and were successfully able to overturn their verdict to put him to death. Of course, he still has life in prison to look forward to, but that's a hell of a lot better than the Book of Leviticus would have given him (hint: It demands the death penalty for everything from adultery to cursing).
#1. Holding a Sudoku Tournament During the Trial
Since most people get their jury trial knowledge from Law & Order or A Few Good Men, one thing they don't realize is that trials are boring. Mind-numbingly boring. Most trials go for about six hours a day and can go on for weeks. So you're basically taking a 24-unit class called "Other People's Problems," and there's no Wi-Fi.
"And with the in-depth analysis of these 35 dryer lint samples, we will prove to you ..."
In Australia, a criminal trial in which two men were facing life sentences ballooned out to three months, hundreds of witnesses, and millions of dollars, and it was hardly an edge-of-your-seat John Grisham thriller. So the jury decided to take up a hobby. Just a week away from closing arguments, the judge was horrified to learn that five of the jurors had been playing sudoku the entire time.
"Except for Fridays; no one's solving that shit."
Ironically, the judge had previously complimented the jury for being so attentive and taking copious notes. But suspicions arose when somebody noticed that, oddly, they seemed to be taking notes vertically. After the real story broke, the jury foreperson admitted that their misconduct had started simply because the trial was too boring, and that they weren't just turning to the game idly now and then, but that they'd formed a tournament out of it and tallied results during their lunch break.
There's no law against it, so the jurors were just thanked and sent home, and a new batch was brought in to start the expensive, months-long ordeal all over again from the top. But the issue did inspire a new set of guidelines explaining that it is unacceptable for a jury to treat a trial like an interstate bus ride.
"Shit, does that mean no 'handies' in the restroom?"
Yosomono writes for Gaijinass.com, whose members unfortunately know all about the Japanese prison system.
For more reasons the law is failing us, check out 7 Ridiculous Cases Where Animals Were Put On Trial. Or learn about The 5 Most Popular Safety Laws (That Don't Work).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 People Who Just Had The Worst Day Of Work Ever .
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Further Reading: Bad decisions by juries don't just happen occasionally, they're shockingly well documented. Even the best case fictional juridom has to offer, 12 Angry Men, would've been wildly illegal in real life. Juries aren't allowed to investigate. On the plus side? You can use awful juries to your advantage. Just apologize and talk real fast and you'll be halfway to victory.