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I began work on Three Sets of Twelve intrigued by a contemporary notion that juries are assembled based on a cross-sectional ideal. That is, a cross-section of Americans could be chosen to serve on a jury, but despite broad personal and demographic diversity, they would arrive with a mutual standard of right and wrong accepted by all Americans. This line of thinking had me believing that juries are all essentially the same.

I learned, however, that to the contrary, the jury selection process emphasizes the differences of potential jurors. Lawyers on both sides of a case attempt to shape the collective personality the jury will develop during the trial and as it deliberates, by evaluating the individual histories and predilections of each of its members. Judges exercise their responsibility to excuse those with significant prejudices about issues related to the case.

I realized too that there is a collective wisdom that develops behind the closed doors of the jury room. There, a unique group of distinct individuals who make up a jury weigh the body of shared information and experience to deliver a joint decision, the verdict. It is at this point, the end of the jury process, that the cross-sectional ideal emerges. The jurors leave, transformed by the gravity of this service they have rendered. They carry that experience out of the courtroom into their daily lives, each in his or her own way.