A Trial by Jury

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: D. Graham Burnett

Narrated By: D. Graham Burnett

Publisher: Random House (Audio)

Date: September 2001

Duration: 5 hours 15 minutes


Jury duty happens to everyone. When the call came to Graham Burnett, a young historian, he had a shock in store. A Trial by Jury is his startling account of how performing this familiar civic duty challenged him in ways he never thought possible and turned into one of the most consuming experiences of his life.

Burnett begins with the story of the trial: a body with multiple stab wounds found in a New York apartment, intimations of cross-dressing, male prostitution, mistaken identity. And then, the unexpected drama: Burnett finds himself appointed the foreman, with the responsibility of leading the increasingly frenetic deliberations within the black box of the jury room.

Soon he is sequestered—which is to say marooned—with eleven others, a group of people who view their task, and often one another, with palpable distaste. Among his colleagues: a vacuum-cleaner repairman cum urban missionary, a young actress, and a man apparently floundering in a borderland between real life and daytime television.

As Burnett steers the contentious politics of their temporary no-exit society toward the verdict, he undergoes an unexpected awakening. Having been plucked from his cozy nest in the world of books and ideas and then plunged into the netherworld of lurid crime, he learns the limits of what intellect alone can accomplish in the real world. Above all, Burnett discovers firsthand the terrifying ultimate power of the state and the agonies of being asked to do justice within the rigid dictates of the law.

Part true crime, part political treatise, part contemplation of right, wrong, and the power of words, A Trial by Jury is a mesmerizing narrative of one man’s encounter with crime and punishment, American style. It profoundly affects one’s sense of the privileges—and the perils—of citizenship.


  • Anonymous

    I did not care for this book. I found it very hard to listen to and stay focused on. The author seemed to try explain the process of jury deliberation in the the most "professorial terms". It didn't keep my attention because he was trying to use every big word he ever saw in a dictionary. It was dreadful. Don't bother with this one.

  • Anonymous

    I relaly enjoyed this eagle's eye view into the American justice system. Since I myself have not been given the chance to be on a jury, it was very eye opening. I enjoyed this audio book, and it gave me valuable insight about what really happens in the courtroom.

  • Lois Olson

    Mr. Burnett finds himself involved in one of the most basic human dilemas--does what is right equal what is just. The average citizen has only a rudimentary understanding of the nuances of the American legal system and yet are charged with determining the ultimate fate (or survival) of another human being using exactly that system. Mr. Burnett also points out that the deifinition of 'jury of your peers' takes in a wide range of political philosophies, religious tenets, cultural biases, and levels of social sophistication. The take home lesson for me from this book was that none of us is truly equipped to judge another whether that person is on trial or in the jury box. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in our legal system or anyone who has served on a jury.

Trial by Jury

by D. Graham Burnett

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Trial by Jury, D. Graham Burnett