Fiction: “The Runaway Jury” by John Grisham

runaway jurySo yes; I was totally the asshole who decided to reread The Runaway Jury during her jury duty.

I think this is the third, maybe fourth time I’ve read Runaway Jury. I do remember it being one of my favorite Grisham novels, back when I was reading them the way I eat candy: devouring everything about it as quickly as possible. I can’t remember if I saw the twist coming from a mile away back then, or what I was thinking. I’ll go into how I looked at it this time in a few minutes paragraphs.

The story is fairly simple, outwardly. This time, the case is a civil one: the widow of a lifelong cigarette smoker has decided to sue the cigarette manufacturer for … I don’t know, manslaughter? Wrongful death? Dudes, I’m not looking up what the actual charge is. But regardless, the tobacco companies are wicked nervous, because they don’t want to lose their billions of dollars in profit.

The main plot of the book follows the jurors and how both sides of the case try to manipulate them into delivering the verdict that each side wants. Runaway Jury was one of the first books I’d read that detailed the jury selection process, including the different jury behavior experts, the private detectives, the files on prospective jurors. It was interesting for me the first time reading it, because the previous Grisham novels all involved the lawyers and not the twelve individuals in the jury box.

[Having said that, I believe that A Time to Kill may have had some references to jurors, but it’s been at least eight years since I’ve read that title, and again, I’m not getting up to verify that. So.]

Nicholas Easter is the most mysterious juror; according to Fitch (the lead jury tamperer), it seems that Easter simply appeared when the trial was announced, and he magically managed to get selected for the jury. About a week into the trial, Fitch is contacted by a mysterious woman named Marlee, who appears to have some inside information or connection to the jury. Fitch is in Big Tobacco’s pocket, and the chance to hand-deliver a jury to his bosses is too good to resist. He works with Marlee, intending to deliver a verdict for the defense.

I had actually written an entire paragraph about the results of Marlee’s and Fitch’s plot, but then I realized that there may still be about ten people out there who have never read The Runaway Jury, so I actually backed away from the spoilers. Aren’t you proud of me?

So reading it this time, I was struck somewhat by how Grisham uses Nicholas Easter as the Mansplainer about jury duty and due process in a civil trial. And it’s not … it’s not as badly done as it could have been, that’s for damned sure, but maybe since it’s been about a decade since I last read the title and I’ve done some growing up and learnin’ of my own, I felt in a couple of places that I was being talked down to. It could also be due to the fact that I had been reading this in the middle of my own jury selection and trial process, and I was more concerned with going “that’s now how it’s happening in Maine!” than with the overall tone.

I was originally going to take a moment and detail my jury selection process (and to clarify, I was a potential juror; I was not selecting a jury for my trial. I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING to the knowledge of the judicial system), but a couple of days ago I realized that I could actually, honestly, potentially write a book about it. So I’m going to save my thoughts in an outline in my Microsoft OneNote and hope and pray that someday, I’ll actually freaking do it.

And finally — as this is a John Grisham novel –, I’d like to redirect everyone to my review of The Firm and give you The Runaway Jury‘s version of events:

I, D, 1, a, i, $10 million.

Grade for The Runaway Jury: 3 stars

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