EVEN THE BEST TRIAL LAWYER WILL tell you that juries are like snakes: They’re hard to get ahold of and not necessarily fun when you do. That’s why law schools concentrate on teaching the law. Aside from picking up a few rules of thumb—Episcopal clergy side with plaintiffs; Episcopal churchgoers side with defendants—law students have to learn about juries the hard way: by trying lawsuits after they graduate. Even so, juries remain enough of a mystery to give rise to an entire industry of consultants available to predict the best argument for your case, provided the client is willing to pay for it. When I litigated for an Austin trial firm in the mid-nineties, I helped pick two juries; one we misread and one we nailed, to the tunes of $27.5 million and $3.5 million, respectively. I liked to tell people that when I left the firm I’d gotten up from the table with a record of one win and one loss, as opposed to being down $24 million. It was never completely clear to me, however, why one jury had gone so well and the other so wrong.
I did not expect to get any more insight once I retired and became a recovering lawyer. The only way I would learn more about juries would be by serving on one, and that wasn’t likely to happen. Lawyers don’t get picked for juries. They think they know too much about what’s going on at the trial, and they tend to interpret the law—a job that belongs solely to the judge—as well as the facts. So when I reported for jury duty in county court in