Issue: April, 2007
Author: Sharon Wilkinson
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The Making of "Inside a Wyoming Jury"
Jury duty. Those simple words oftentimes have a negative connotation among U.S. citizens. Many of us have been the recipient of a jury summons. Unfortunately for some, the first thought that comes to mind is, “How do I get excused?”
Jury duty undoubtedly places an inconvenience on our routine lives, but it is the goal of the Wyoming State Bar to alter that perception and point out what a great responsibility jury service is—one of which we should be proud and take very seriously. Serving on a jury is our civic right, and it helps to keep alive our right of trial by jury.
The Wyoming State Bar is proud to partner with Wyoming Public Television in the production of “Inside a Wyoming Jury,” a one-hour television program that will air on Law Day - May 1, 2007.
Representatives from the Wyoming State Bar, the Wyoming Supreme Court, the Wyoming Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, and numerous court clerks from around Wyoming met with the producers of Wyoming Public Television to determine the most effective way to demonstrate the importance of the jury system. What could be more effective than an actual trial with a real jury? Well, we came close. Using an actual Wyoming murder case, Trusky v. State, plans were quickly under way for a mock trial.
We all understand the difficulty court clerks face in getting jurors to carry out their civic duty and serve on a real jury. Imagine, if you will, the difficulty I experienced in trying to find 12 jurors to volunteer their time in order to serve on a mock jury where their every action and word was caught on film! After some struggles and last-minute scrambling from some of our Wyoming court clerks, I was fortunate to find 12 volunteers from different areas of Wyoming who had previous jury experience. Some had served on the more celebrated cases (i.e. Cantrell, Eaton) and others had served only a few weeks prior to the filming. One thing these jurors had in common, however, was a respect and a belief in the jury system.
Jury selection was complete, and now we needed a defense attorney, a prosecutor, a judge, and oh . . . a place to film all of this. (You are undoubtedly recognizing how backwards this process is, but this is television, folks!)
Casper attorney, Kelly Rankin, agreed to play the part of the prosecutor in our mock trail, and Diane Lozano, the new State Public Defender, agreed to play the part of the defense attorney—no acting classes necessary for either of them.
The Honorable William F. Downes, Chief Judge of the United States District Court – District of Wyoming, generously donated his time (on behalf of the Wyoming Chapter of the Federal Bar Association) to preside over the mock trial. In addition to volunteering his time, he also volunteered his courtroom for the filming. If Judge Downes didn’t have an opinion about cameras in the courtroom then, I’m sure he does now! Amid numerous cameras, lights, microphones, and cords, Judge Downes commented that, “Judge Judy doesn’t even have this much equipment in her courtroom!”
Judge Downes also had to become accustomed to phrases such as, “Who is shooting the judge?” While this was actually an inquiry from the film crew to see which camera was currently filming Judge Downes’ actions, the look on his face was priceless. This Hollywood-like scene was definitely something out of the ordinary for a typical Wyoming courtroom.
After Kelly Rankin and Diane Lozano each spent less than five minutes presenting each side of this murder case, Judge Downes commented that, “We must be filming Boston Legal.” Judge Downes gave the mock jury its instructions, the cameras were turned off and everyone sat down for pizza and soda. It was an unusual, maybe unheard of, occurrence to see the judge, jury, prosecutor, and the defense attorney socializing, discussing, and clarifying what had just taken place in the courtroom. I could see the “if only” expressions on the faces of the attorneys.
After a day and a half of filming, the producer and crew of Wyoming Public Television headed back to the studio to edit several hours of film down to one hour. If that one-hour television program makes even a few people think differently the next time they receive a jury summons, we will have reached our goal.
Tune into Wyoming Public Television at 7:00 p.m. on May 1, 2007, to see “Inside a Wyoming Jury.”
Sharon Wilkinson is the Communications Director for the Wyoming State Bar.
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