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The killing of a 15-year-old-boy rocks the nation, as a Sikh classmate of the boy is charged with the murder. The trial, which is engulfed in protests and media speculation, brings together 12 jurors who find themselves having to make a decision that the entire country is waiting for. Written by
In episode one, a computer screen list showing the names of potential jury members contains the names of fourteen characters from The Bill (1984). They are Reg Hollis, Nick Klein, Duncan Lennox, Debbie McAllister, Jack Meadows, Andrew Monroe, Dave Quinnan, Kass (sic) Rickman, Paul Riley, Vic Singh, Kate Spears, Roz Clarke, Tony Stamp and Des Taviner. Some of the potential jurors' addresses also correspond to street names used on the show. See more »
This was quite an ambitious undertaking; a six part exploration of not only the dynamics of the jury room but also the effects of the criminal trial on the lives of jurors, their families, the victim's family and the accused and his family.
The jury here is almost perversely diverse, with everyone from a young single black mother to a trainee priest. We follow seven of the jurors home during adjournments and realise that strains and stresses of the jury box and room aren't the half of it. One unlucky juror has a father-in law from hell who wants in on the case. Another is a recovering alcoholic who is finding it hard to stay on the straight and narrow, despite his invaluable `personal trainer' Juror Rose (Helen McCrory) is unlucky enough to be married to a control freak (she took on jury service to get away from him) and to then get friendly with the alcoholic. Juror Jeremy, a down and out businessman, is thrown by an accidental encounter with the man whose sure fire deal nearly ruined him. The trainee priest is having doubts about his vocation and the old lady he befriends finds out she is seriously ill.
The courtroom scenes on the other hand run pretty smoothly (though there is a surprise witness). We have top leading counsel of course, Anthony Sher for the prosecution and Derek Jacobi for the defence, but their performances are so glossy and professional as to be almost boring. The judge is almost invisible, despite a lot of noise from the gallery.
This brings me to two irritating aspects. This being a `racial' killing (Sikh boy accused of killing white schoolboy bully with ceremonial sword) there is a demonstration by both sides outside the Old Bailey every morning and afternoon. I can't believe the police would allow the jurors to be routinely intimidated in this way (though most of them did seem to have other things on their minds.) Surely there is a back door (or they could have bussed them out). Secondly, the practice here in Australia is to `sequester' the jury members ie cut them off from family and friends and anyone else who might try to nobble them after they retire to consider their verdict. We copied this practice from the English. Surely they still sequester the jury at the Old Bailey?
Technical grizzles aside this was a very watchable show with some nice acting. There are weaknesses in some of the plotlines and there's rather a ham-fisted attempt to leave things up in the air at the end, but the film reveals the value of the jury as an institution even if individual jurors might be pretty quirky. To some extent majority verdicts (which we don't have in NSW) iron out some of these, though the storyline here suggests such verdicts have problems of their own.
In the end the jurors do their job conscientiously to the best of their ability, despite all the distractions. Whether they are right or wrong is hardly the point; they represent humanity in the administration of justice, which would be mighty cold and austere without them.
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