Sepulveda, California – The Present
WE THE JURY is told from fourteen viewpoints during a jury’s deliberation of a murder trial. Each chapter tells a viewpoint from the judge, the prosecuting attorney, the husband and paralegal of the defending attorney, the courtroom clerk, the bailiff, a blogger, or from one of the eight members of the jury. This approach is very different but riveting. The reader learns about the defendant, David Sullinger, through varying jury member’s interpretations of court testimony on how and why he murdered his wife. Also exposed are their son Dillon, age 16, and daughter Lacey, age 17, who testify for or against their father. To complicate the issue, David’s wife Amanda was his former high school teacher and the family breadwinner. David’s expensive defense lawyer, Jenna Blaylock, has presented her client as an abused spouse who defended himself. The local prosecuting attorney, Jack Cranston, is shown through these viewpoints as Blaylock’s opposite: unattractive, unfashionable, stumbling over his words, and apparently inept. The jury begins deliberations ready to acquit.
What emerges is a ‘is he guilty or innocent?’ debate, but through a very convoluted set of narratives. Each juror bases their interpretation of facts on their own thoughts and beliefs about what they saw or heard, or remembered or not, in court. The eight jurors come from different social experiences and mindsets with accompanying prejudices. They sort truth, misconception, deliberate deception, and lies based on the testimony and evidence presented to deliver the verdict. Some jurors have personal motivations behind their convictions. The jury’s diversity emerges from the epithets given: the Foreperson, the Architect, the Housewife, the Grandmother, the Student, and the Jury Consultant, all women; and the two men jurors, the Clergyman and the Express Messenger/Actor. Each viewpoint gives a very different assessment of what is happening in the deliberation process. Outside the courthouse, a very determined, quasi-journalist/blogger is presenting her own agenda about the defendant and trial.
In the meantime, a reader becomes aware of the two attorneys and their mindsets about truth, lies, and justice. The presiding judge has just lost her beloved husband and leaves the reader wondering if this has impaired her judgement. The dedicated and concerned courtroom clerk and bailiff help keep the judge in order and the process moving, but have concerns.
All of this shows how society and courtrooms blend in determining guilt or innocence. The author, who has a law degree, also plays the reader very effectively, taking them on a bumpy journey of belief/disbelief about innocence and guilt, but he also gives a complex view of how the justice system works, and how it also can be played. Few readers will foresee the very unexpected ending.