A Trial by Jury

A Trial by Jury

3.41 (309 ratings by Goodreads)
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The People of New York v. Monte Virginia Milcray had all the elements of being a sensational and disturbing trial: a body with multiple stab wounds found in a tiny New York apartment; intimations of cross-dressing; male prostitution, and mistaken identity. But for Graham Burnett - a young historian and literary journalist who had been appointed foreman on the Jury - it turned into one of the most harrowing experiences of his life. During the four days and three nights it took to arrive at a verdict the twelve overwrought strangers struggled to find any sure answers, remaining locked in the black box of the jury room all day and virtual prisoners in their hotel at night. Attempting to steer the jury through the ambiguities of the case, Burnett discovered for himself the terrifying power of the state and the agonies of trying to do justice within the inherent rigidities of law. Part true crime, part political treatise, part contemplation of right, wrong, and the power of words, A TRIAL BY JURY is a mesmerizing narrative of one man's encounter with crime and punishment.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 17mm | 189g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747561680
  • 9780747561682
  • 689,729

Review quote

"As fascinating as any fictional courtroom thriller and a lot more thought-provoking than most . . . Burnett has a keen intelligence and he's a gifted writer--the book holds you in its grip."--Charles Matthews, "Mercury News" "A minor masterpiece, a mesmerizing story of a system that would be right at home in a Franz Kafka story. In many ways, "ÝA Trial by Jury "is downright chilling . . . It opens a window on a closed, substantially flawed process . . . Burnett's prose is crystal clear. . . . This is a fascinating story."--Leo Irwin, "Sunday News Journal "(Wilmington, DE) "ÝBurnett illustrates what a remarkable and sometimes remarkably strange duty serving on a jury can be . . . A riveting look at citizen jurors at work."--Seth Stern, "The Christian Science Monitor" "A drama both human and metaphysical . . . a report from the trenches . . . It's not just the defendant who is on trial in "A Trial by Jury," but the jury system and the jurors themselves."--James Traub, "The New York Review of Books" "The heavy machine is what Burnett calls the criminal justice system; his close encounter with its well-greased wheels and levers is the subject of his immensely readable new book."--Jabari Asim, "Washington Post" "By turns humorous and dramatic, "A Trial by Jury" speeds along; it can be devoured in a single sitting. Burnett is a graceful, economical writer, with a sharp eye for detail and a nuanced feel for character. He never loses his sense of the ridiculous . . . An irresistible book."--Barry Gewen, "The New York Times Book Review ""The author, a historian of science, also proves himself an excellent student of human nature in thisfirst-person account of serving as the jury foreman in a New York City murder trial. Though the entire case, from opening gavel to final decision, takes only a few weeks, Burnett manages to paint vivid portraits of his fellow-jurors and examine the knottier issues of class, race, and gender that complicate the justice system's search for objective truth. Until now, the standard-bearer for jury-room dynamics has been "Twelve Angry Men"; Burnett's narrative, while significantly more understated, is no less illuminating.""--The New Yorker """"A slender, finely wrought book . . . unfailingly astute . . . That "A Trial by Jury" can be read in a few engrossing hours is an unexpected treat for busy professionals. That it is written with a grace and eloquence all too rare in contemporary nonfiction is icing on the cake. That it may actually make us better and more thoughtful lawyers and citzens is the kind of marvelous prestidigitation worthy of our best teachers."--Peter H. Schuck, "New York Law Journal "This book is a journey down into the grim boiler room of justice. Those who make this journey never forget the experience. They emerge seeing the world in a different way, and you'll understand why after reading this book. --Jonathan Harr, author of "A Civil Action ""D. Graham Burnett's "A Trial By Jury" is the passionate, honest and humane true story of a murder trial and the torments of the jurors as they try to decide guilt or innocence. This jewel of a book describing a brutal, quirky killing tells us as much about the pain suffered by people having to make overwhelming decisions as it does about the good and bad of the American criminal justice system.Not since "12 Angry Men" have we been so vividly brought inside the jury room and shown how 12 people--including the author--ultimately choose between justice and the law."--Martin Garbus, author of "Tough Talk "
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About D. Graham Burnett

D. Graham Burnett is a historian of science and the author of MASTERS OF ALL THEY SURVEYED. He has taught at Yale and Columbia, and is currently assistant professor of history at Princeton.
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Rating details

309 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 12% (36)
4 34% (104)
3 43% (133)
2 8% (24)
1 4% (12)
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