Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
In the Hands of the People

In the Hands of the People

The Trial Jury's Origins, Triumphs, Troubles, and Future in American Democracy

William L. Dwyer

Thomas Dunne Books




In a passionate warning that is not only well-reasoned, as becomes a renowned former trial lawyer and present federal judge, but is also a compelling and entertaining read, William L. Dwyer defies those who would abolish our jury system and hand over its power to judges or to panels of "experts." He aims, by making his readers aware of what should be done, to help us save what he calls "America's most democratic institution."

In an overview of litigation's universe, Dwyer goes back several centuries to describe the often terrifying ways our ancestors arrived at verdicts of guilt or innocence. Tracing the evolution of our present-day system, he gives us excerpts from the actual records of such trials as that of young William Penn, arrested for preaching Quaker beliefs in public; the Salem witch trials; and the landmark civil rights trial of 18th century newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger, whose attorney was the original "Philadelphia lawyer." Along with these famous courtroom episodes are many never before described in print, all of them infused with the drama that gives life to the law.

Dwyer's language is clear and engaging - a pleasant surprise for readers apprehensive about legal gobbledygook. He has a store of courtroom "war stories," some inspiring, some alarming, many enlivened by gleams of the author's wry humor.

Underlying that humor, however, is the judge's fear that the jury system is endangered by neglect and misunderstanding, and could be lost without the public being aware of what is happening. The book shows that despite much adverse publicity, the American jury still works capably, at times brilliantly, when given a fair chance by the legal professionals who run trials. Consequently, the author deals with what has gone wrong with American litigation, the controversy over the jury's competence and integrity, and trial and pretrial reforms that must be made to save trial by jury and reshape American litigation in the twenty-first century.


In The Hands of the People

Trial by jury, enshrined in the United States Constitution and guaranteed by every state's laws, has deep roots in American life and at first glance might seem imperishable....


Praise for In the Hands of the People

In the Hands of the People should be read by everybody who wants to understand the liberties we protect through our jury system--and should be read by every judge and every attorney who will ever be involved in picking a jury. It is just that good.” —Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

In the Hands of the People reminded me of how blessed we are to live in a system where the rule of law governs and where our rights are adjudicated by a peer group. Judge Dwyer's artful weaving of story after story, anecdote after anecdote, while educating his reader to the procedures and the philosophies of our system of advocacy is brilliant. This book deserves to become a classic.” —Ronald Jay Cohen, Chairman, Litigation Section, American Bar Association

“Judge Dwyer spent his life with juries--as trial lawyer, as judge, and now as scholar of the institution he reveres. With unpretentious authority, he presents the wonderful old jury lore, and at the same time explains what went wrong in the O.J. case. As layperson or lawyer, you will be equipped to think about the issues and enter the public policy debate on the basis of this single book.” —Barbara Allen Babcock, Professor, Stanford University School of Law

“By weaving together an entertaining narrative of the rise of the jury system, Judge Dwyer makes the case for the jury at a time when it's under fire. From his long experience as one of the nation's leading trial lawyers and as a much admired federal judge, Dwyer also offers practical suggestions for improving trials without tampering with the jury itself.” —Stephen Bosworth, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

“An impassioned case for the value of our jury system. Judges, lawyers, and prosecutors could learn much from this story, but it is American citizens who should read it and then be eager and proud to serve on a jury. Judge Dwyer has again contributed mightily to our understanding of the judicial system.” —Daniel J. Evans, former U.S. Senator, Governor of Washington, and Fellow, John F. Kennedy School of Government

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

William L. Dwyer

The late William L. Dwyer was a trial lawyer for 30 years before he was appointed United States Distict Judge for the Western District of Washington in 1987 by Ronald Reagan. As a lawyer he handled State of Washington v. American League, which led to the creation of the Seattle Mariners. As a judge he presided over, among other cases, the nation's first homicide trial under federal product tampering law (two deaths by cyanide poisoning) and the case establishing a conservation plan for the spotted owl. Dwyer also designed and taught a course, "The History and Philosophy of Litigation," at the University of Washington School of Law. His previous book, The Goldmark Case: An American Libel Trial, won an American Bar Association Gavel Award and a Governor's Award for Writers in the State of Washington. In June 2001, the University of Washington School of Law established the William L. Dwyer Chair in Law.

William L. Dwyer

From the Publisher

Thomas Dunne Books

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