Unreasonable Doubt: Circumstantial Evidence and the Art of Judging

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"Part detective story, part social commentary, part intellectual autobiography, part philosophical analysis, this is a jury book unlike any other."—Anthony Kronman, Sterling Professor of Law and former dean, Yale Law School

"[Norma Thompson] teaches us, brilliantly and painlessly, why judging, as opposed to simply knowing, is an essential part of a responsible human existence, recounting the trials and crimes and moral dilemmas of antiquity and classical tradition in a stunningly original reading."—Abraham D. Sofaer, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and former United States district judge

In 2001, Norma Thompson served on the jury in a murder trial in New Haven, Connecticut. In Unreasonable Doubt, Thompson dramatically depicts the jury's deliberations, which ended in a deadlock. As foreperson, she pondered the behavior of some of her fellow jurors that led to the trial's termination in a hung jury. Blending personal memoir, social analysis, and literary criticism, she addresses the evasion of judgment she witnessed during deliberations and relates that evasion to contemporary political, social, and legal affairs. She then assembles an imaginary jury of Alexis de Tocqueville, Plato, and Jane Austen, among others, to show how the writings of these authors can help model responsible habits of deliberation.

Norma Thompson is senior lecturer in humanities and associate director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. She is the author most recently of The Ship of State: Statecraft and Politics from Ancient Greece to Democratic America.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Imagine Herodotus announcing a murder verdict reached by jurors Jane Austen, Plato, William Faulkner, and other classic and modern writers and thinkers who have marked our civilization. Such a jury, posits Thompson (assoc. director, Whitney Humanities Ctr., Yale), would ensure that no unreasonable doubt marred the deliberations and that transparent and universal standards of logic and reasoning applied, the opposite of what she experienced in the actual case in New Haven, CT, referred to in the subtitle. (For that trial, Thompson was the jury foreperson.) She feels that, in examining circumstantial evidence, the bedrock evidence for nearly all serious prosecutions, a jury guided by reason-as influenced by the great writings of our collective civilization-would be moved to reach verdicts that decide and do not evade difficult issues of fact, credibility, and reliability. True-crime fans will enjoy the insights into the behind-the-scenes work of a murder jury, and general readers will marvel at the wisdom of literature applied to decision making. Recommended for popular reading and for advanced study of classics and literature.-Gilles Renaud, Ontario Court of Justice, Cornwall, Ont. Political Science Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589880726
  • Publisher: Dry, Paul Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Pages: 207
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Norma Thompson: Norma Thompson is Senior Lecturer in the Humanities and Associate Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. She is the author or editor of several books, most recently The Ship of State: Statecraft and Politics from Ancient Greece to Democratic America.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Jury Stories, Old and New 1

I Two Murders, One Trial 4

II The Trial 18

III Deliberation 49

IV My Literary Jurors 106

V Final Arguments 157

Afterword 180

The Art of Judgment 185

Bibliography 211

Index 221

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