Common Sense vs. Intelligence. When youíre young and in school, it seems that intelligence is the best thing to have. When youíre older and having to make tough decisions, you realize that common sense truly is the better of the two. A Trial by Jury is the story of Graham Burnettís realization that there is more than one way to reason out a problem. Burnett is called to jury duty and chosen to serve on a murder trial. He is then voted foreman on the jury that must make a life-altering decision for the accused, a decision the group must reach while boxed in by the strict rule of the law and marooned with people who all despise and want desperately to get away from each other.
Burnett, the author and former juror, has much writing experience, being a 1999-2000 fellow of the Center for Scholars and Writers and NYC Public Library and having taught at both Yale and Columbia Universities. With his educational background itís not surprising that Burnett thought that all thinking should be done with the intellect, the kind of thinking that's based on facts and previous studies -- not the intuitive thinking that people use to tell if someone is lying. Burnett uses his scholarly experience to become a prolific note-taker and observer of the court room and writes a surprisingly good book about the excesses that the state will take to make a conviction -- and how the jury, no matter what they want to do, are forced like lemmings over the cliff of law.
Iím a Law & Order fanatic, and this book consumed my full attention. The reader is able to go back into the courtroom with Burnett and experience what he did, riveted and flipping through the pages hurrying to get to the jury verdict. This book is great fun; at the same time, it forces a consideration of deeper issues in the American justice system. In the end, thatís the best kind of book to write.