Friday, January 30, 2015

TV Jury Duty

Let’s face it; nobody likes being forced to serve on a jury. Nobody knows this better than the folks out in Hollywood who have featured juries in countless television projects. In just about every plot that is centered around a jury, one is likely to see the following stereotypes:

STEREOTYPE: The Gruff Jury Foreman

MOTTO: “Let’s just wrap this up and go home.”

You’ve seen this type of character a million times. Typically a man and almost always gruff, this type of jury foreman is always convinced that the defendant is unequivocally guilty or absolutely innocent. In any case, he typically has a good reason why he’d like things to be wrapped up quickly and only takes a vote as a formality. Despite wanting to get everything over with, he’ll stubbornly stick to his first impression and will be the last person to change his vote. (And only after the evidence overwhelmingly acquits or convicts the defendant.)

STEREOTYPE: The Conscientious Juror

MOTTO: “Let’s go over the evidence a fifth time.”

There’s always someone who takes his or her civic duty seriously and (to the chagrin of everyone else) always votes against the commonly accepted verdict. This person is almost always the star of the program (Or another series regular.) and will always butt heads with the gruff jury foreman who thinks going over the evidence is a waste of time. This jury member is always right and slowly but surely convinces everyone else by doing what the prosecutor or defense attorney was incapable of doing- proving guilt or innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt.

STEREOTYPE: The Guilty Grandma

MOTTO: “I thought a ho was something to use in the garden.”

When the defendant is someone who looks innocent or isn’t the stereotypical “criminal”, he or she is most definitely guilty. The guilty defendant is often a kindly grandmother type who bakes cookies for the judge, bailiffs, prosecution and the jury. (Even though it isn’t ethical for these folks to accept the cookies, they always do.) The grandmother character is often accused of horrendous charges like pandering or ordering a murder. Everyone will fall for her innocent act, except for the Conscientious Juror who noticed the glimmer of evil in Grandma’s eyes when Juror #6 grabbed two cookies instead of one off of the plate. While the Conscientious Juror was planning on going along with everyone else, the moment of malice in Grandma’s eyes causes him or her to rethink his or her decision. After the juror has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Grandma is indeed guilty of all charges and the verdict of guilty is handed down, the Guilty Grandma will nearly always turn psychotic and begin threatening the jury. After this uncharacteristically profane and violent tirade, everyone will now realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that Grandma is 110% guilty of all charges.

STEREOTYPE: The Innocent Thug

MOTTO: “Sure, I’m guilty of other crimes- but not this one.”

It appears that the law has finally caught up with this reprehensible criminal. We know that he’s reprehensible, because he kicks several puppies on the way to the courthouse, steals from the blind and pushes several nuns out of his way. This means, of course, that he is entirely innocent of the crime he’s being charged with. Everyone, even the judge thinks this guy is guilty. (Everyone, that is, except for the Conscientious Juror) After several attempts to curry favor with the jury that hopelessly backfire, the Innocent Thug will make the mistake of testifying on his own behalf. Not only will his testimony backfire, making him look even guiltier than before, but he’ll probably end up shouting down the prosecutor, typically with his motto, as mentioned above. When all appears to be lost and it appears that The Innocent Thug will be sent to jail for the one crime that he did not commit, justice will rule the day and he will be acquitted of all charges.