Review of Murder Trial Jury: The Shocking Ignorance Found within Real Jurors, Written by CHRISTOPHER STEVENS

Bintano
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The Jury: Murder Trial 

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The British Airways Killer 

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Any detective is bound to view a coincidence on this scale with cynical suspicion. It would test the credulity of the most lenient Crown Court judge.

On one channel, there’s a man pleading not guilty to murder after killing his wife with a hammer . . . while on the other side, the case of a completely different man who killed his ex-wife with a hammer is investigated after he was found — not guilty of murder!

The two programmes aren’t connected. This is just one of those cosmic synchronicities.

The Jury: Murder Trial (Ch4) is a blend of reconstruction, reality show and social experiment. Two groups of a dozen people are in court to hear actors stage a verbatim version of a real-life trial. The juries know they’re watching a performance — but they are in separate booths and are not aware of the other 12.

This four-part series, which continues tonight, is devised as ‘a test of the justice system’. The two juries will hear all the same facts. If they come to different conclusions, that raises worrying questions about the efficacy of British trials.

The Jury: Murder Trial (Ch4) is a blend of reconstruction, reality show and social experiment

The Jury: Murder Trial (Ch4) is a blend of reconstruction, reality show and social experiment

This four-part series, which continues tonight, is devised as 'a test of the justice system'

This four-part series, which continues tonight, is devised as ‘a test of the justice system’

Two groups of a dozen people are in court to hear actors stage a verbatim version of a real-life trial

Two groups of a dozen people are in court to hear actors stage a verbatim version of a real-life trial

‘Criminologists believe real-life juries might reach the wrong verdict in up to a quarter of cases,’ we heard — though how that estimate was reached wasn’t explained. Crucially, real jurors are sworn to secrecy, and cannot discuss their deliberations. Here, though, they can.

The crime is a shocking one: 39-year-old sculptor John took a lump hammer and smashed in the skull of his wife, Helen, hitting her three times with such ferocity that scraps of flesh were left on the implement. He pleads that he didn’t mean to hurt her and that her killing was manslaughter on the grounds that he lost control.

Guilty Pleasure of the Week: 

After two years of rumours, writer Abi Morgan confirms there is to be a spin-off from her BBC1 divorce drama, The Split. Set in Manchester, it will centre on another wealthy family of lawyers.

And this time the title is subtly different . . . The Split Up. 

Two doubts mar this format. We don’t know whether the jurors were selected at random, or chosen for their backgrounds and personalities. And the behaviour of some is so provocative, I question whether they have been encouraged to stir up controversy.

Several people insisted the victim might have provoked the attack. One man said that he was prone to red mist himself in his younger days, and another admitted to throwing crockery at his wife during rows.

A third bloke was dragging half a ton of emotional baggage from his own break-up with the mother of his child. ‘That plays a big part in how I judge people,’ he admitted, failing to grasp that he was meant to be weighing the facts, not deciding how much sympathy he felt for the killer. ‘Some people might relate more to Helen,’ he said, ‘others might relate more to John. Swings and roundabouts, you know?’

It’s frightening to think such levels of ignorance could play a part in the most serious legal trials. If either of these juries decides to acquit the accused of murder, the implications will be dire.

Incredibly, another killer really was found not guilty of murder, after hitting his ex-wife with a claw hammer at least 14 times. The British Airways Killer (ITV1) sets out the brutal facts of how jumbo jet pilot Robert Brown battered Joanne Simpson to death at her home in 2010 before burying her body in a pre-dug grave in Windsor Great Park.

The British Airways Killer (ITV1) sets out the brutal facts of how jumbo jet pilot Robert Brown battered Joanne Simpson to death at her home in 2010 before burying her body in a pre-dug grave in Windsor Great Park (pictured: Brown and Simpson on their wedding day)

The British Airways Killer (ITV1) sets out the brutal facts of how jumbo jet pilot Robert Brown battered Joanne Simpson to death at her home in 2010 before burying her body in a pre-dug grave in Windsor Great Park (pictured: Brown and Simpson on their wedding f

In police interview footage that has to be seen to be believed, Brown dismissed her as 'Princess Perfect'

In police interview footage that has to be seen to be believed, Brown dismissed her as ‘Princess Perfect’

One friend called Jo ‘the girl everybody wanted to be’. Her mother, Diana Parkes, said simply: ‘Everybody loved Jo, except her husband.’

In police interview footage that has to be seen to be believed, he dismissed her as ‘Princess Perfect’. His plea of manslaughter was somehow accepted and, now halfway through a 26-year sentence, the parole board will decide whether to release him this year, something this paper has campaigned against.

‘I just wish he’d come and kill me,’ said Diana, ‘and then he’ll definitely be put away and everybody will feel safe.’

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