Nancy Gertner


The movie 12 Angry Men reflected everything that is extraordinary and troubling about the American jury system. It portrayed twelve lay people, struggling with questions of guilt or innocence, bias and fairness, or racism and rationality. But the movie was troubling in equal measure. These important struggles about guilt or innocence were played out in an all-white, all-male jury, while the defendant was a minority. Jury trials in federal court reflect the same extraordinary and troubling pattern, particularly as street crime is "federalized." Constitutional remedies—as they are currently construed—are inadequate to the task. The Jury Selection and Service Act has likewise been narrowed. Yet the fundamental unfairness remains.

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