Mock Juror

| No Comments

Last week I participated in a mock trial held to demonstrate how lawyers work within a peer jury system. Japan will introduce "lay judges" to judicial system in May 2009.

I was one of five American mock jurors. Most of us were long-term Japan residents and none of us had ever been on a jury before. We all agreed that this felt like discharging our civic duty and took it seriously.

It was hard work! The event, with an audience of about 300 lawyers and law students, lasted 5 hours. There were two witnesses on each side and each was examined and cross examined about various letters, contracts, e-mails and internal business communications. The witnesses/actors and lawyers were prepared, but nothing was scripted. Paying attention to two eminent and persuasive trial lawyers (William Price and John Quinn from Quinn Emmanuel) both going full-on at one another while trying to keep the facts straight and the point of the lawsuit in mind was boggling.

During witness questioning, they highlighted sections of documents and enlarged them so that the rest of the page was obscured. What was the full context around the highlighted text? Sometimes the same document came up again and further detail could be gleaned with quick reading. But wow... There were a dozen key pages and I never managed to read one all the way through.

In addition soaking in details about the case, I was also meta-thinking about the trial system and the changes it will being to Japan's legal process. At the same time, I was noting how the personalities of the two lawyers affected the way I thought about their points. Mr. Price was very strict - he aggressively pushed semantic arguments and made lots of objections. Mr. Quinn was more personable; he engaged the witnesses gently and his questions usually aimed to help the jury understand the more difficult points. They both were able to sway my mind when they spoke.

By the time the closing arguments rolled around, I had completely forgotten what the opening ones were. I had formed an opinion, though, which I verified through my scribbled notes. The judge read us our instructions, a list of "If you think A, then B must be false. If you think C, then you also must believe D, E & F are true." It was very complicated and not written down. I hope that is different in real life.

We deliberated in the open, so that the audience could hear what a jury thinks. There were actually two juries - the Americans and another panel of five Japanese jurors. We deliberated separately and although we reached exactly the same conclusion, our methods were different. The Americans each briefly stated their view, "I'd find for the plaintiff because Y", then we discussed our differences of opinion. "You say X but did you consider Y? Because X seems to be an emotional argument, rather than law." Then we voted. The Japanese jurors each gave longer more detailed (it seemed) opinions, then they voted. No discussions. But that might have been a factor of time limitations.

It was a fascinating experience. But I am very glad this was only a mock trial and not a real one.

Leave a comment