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Patents and Juries (alertdebugging.com)
19 points by apayan on Aug 29, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 3 comments

A little story about the jury system. Years ago I was a juror on a murder trial in NYC. The judge was strict beyond belief with the attorneys. He seemed tougher than any hanging judge in a movie, though not unfair. The verdict was reached quickly: guilty. Every one associated with the trial went on with our lives. All but the victim and the defendant.

A year later, the judge retired and published his memoir. A big surprise awaited. He had begun his career as an ACLU lawyer in the 60s but wound up with a tough reputation among the defense bar.

An even bigger surprise awaited me. He devoted a chapter to explaining how hopeless the jury system is. To illustrate, he told the story of a murder case. My murder case. I read, "Never was a defendant more plainly guilty". I agreed, with some relief, but was confused. Why this case?

Turns out my trial was the second trial. At the first, some of the female jurors refused to convict. The defendant was "too good looking to have committed the crime", in their opinion. Mistrial. Then I recalled how, in our later trial, two female jurors wanted to find a way to justify a manslaughter conviction for what was clearly deliberate murder. They felt sorry for the handsome young defendant.

You be the judge (or jury), but if I had not lived it, I would not have believed this could happen.

Given that the jury is already supposed to be isolated from inadmissible evidence or influences in the media outside of the trial, I wonder if anyone has looked into what the effect (positive or negative) of having juries make their decision using a transcript, only having a picture or video of one of the parties available in the case that it is important and accepted evidence (such as "we have a video of the murder taking place; for reference, here is a picture, so you can recognize his face in the camera").

The point of my blog post was that the jury can serve as a useful component in a larger system of justice. The ideal is to have a system of checks and balances. The problem with patent cases in particular is that juries end up being more or less the only component.

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