Ladies and gentlemen of the newspaper-reading jury ...
Among the questions herewith posed to you:
Why does it take so much longer than it once did to start criminal trials?
Why does it take so much longer to finish them?
Why shouldn't juries be instructed to focus primarily on what a defendant did, which in some cases jurors can absolutely know?
Why are so many juries instructed to waste so much time trying to figure out what a defendant was thinking when he did what they know that he did?
And if you're among the many, including me, whose faith in the jury system is increasingly tested (and flunking) due to repeatedly protracted trials by illogical ordeals, take the following test to enlighten your perspective on how society should — and should not — seek justice.
1) Name who says: "Gentlemen, trials are too important to be left up to juries."
2) Name who wrote: "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
3) Name who says: "What's the matter with you guys? You all know he's guilty! He's got to burn! You're letting him slip through our fingers!"
4) Name who wrote: “JURY—Twelve men chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”
5) How long have women been eligible to serve on juries in South Carolina?
6) Name who said: “Say that, 'Criminal law is against him? You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so."
7) Name who says: "That was the one thing that made me think, well, this may be the shadow of a beginning. That jury took a few hours. An inevitable verdict, maybe, but usually it takes 'em just a few minutes."
8) Name who said: "We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world, and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don't know anything and can't read."
9) Name who abducts the 12 jurors who convicted him — and what he steals from them.
What's your verdict?
1) Jury consultant Rankin Fitch, played by Gene Hackman, says that in the 2003 movie "Runaway Jury," adapted from the John Grisham novel "The Runaway Jury."
2) Thomas Jefferson wrote that in a 1789 letter to Thomas Paine.
3) Juror No. 3, played by Lee J. Cobb, says that in the 1957 movie "12 Angry Men," which drew Academy Award nominations for director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Reginald Rose.
4) That definition of a jury comes from 1904's "The Foolish Dictionary" by Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne). Poet Robert Frost also supposedly repeated that line, though that assertion is in dispute.
5) Forty-nine years. South Carolina became the next-to-last state to break that gender barrier in 1967. In another clear case of "Thank goodness for Mississippi," the Magnolia State waited another year to give juries a woman's touch.
6) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that during a 2007 panel discussion in Ottawa, Canada, citing the example of 2001-10 Fox TV series "24," on which federal agent Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) routinely saves lives by torturing terrorists.
7) Defense attorney Atticus Finch sees that silver lining on the long-term cloud of racial injustice in Harper Lee's 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" after an all-white jury in 1930s Alabama takes much longer than usual to return a predictable — and incorrect — guilty verdict against a black man.
8) Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, said that during an 1873 speech.
9) The Mad Hatter, aka Jervis Tetch (played by David Wayne), abducts the 12 jurors who convicted him and steals their hats in "The Thirteenth Hat," the 13th episode of ABC's 1966-68 "Batman" series. Then he steals Batman's cowl, too.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.