Sleeping Clemens jurors spur court reform

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
3:46
PM ET
Clemens trialAP Photo/Dana VerkouterenThe slow pace of the Roger Clemens perjury trial inspires our ideas to improve the court experience.
Have you been keeping up with the Roger Clemens trial? Of course not, because it’s incredibly boring. So boring, in fact, that two jurors have now been dismissed for falling asleep during the trial.

It’s clear that the American justice system needs more razzmatazz to keep jurors awake. And there’s no better place to look for tips than where Clemens comes from: the world of sports.

Presession introductions -- Right now the defendant, defense attorneys and prosecutors just walk into the courtroom and sit down. Boring. They should dim the lights, bring out a spotlight and pump up the Michael Jordan-era intro music: “At 6-foot-4 ... from the University of Texas ... he’s accused of perjury ... ROOOOOO-ger CLEMMMMMMM-ens!”

Cheerleaders -- Courtrooms are full of suits: regular and pant. They could use some sex appeal. Cheerleaders would give jurors some skin to look at and help everyone stay fired up about the proceedings. “Give us another E! Give us an N! Give us a C! Give us yet another E! What’s that spell?! EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE! YAY!”

Recess shows -- What’s a recess but a court’s version of halftime? Let’s get some musical acts into the courtroom to keep everyone entertained. Playing the Super Bowl is cool, but playing the Supreme Court is even cooler. I’ve always assumed the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” was about the sound a gavel makes, anyway.

T-shirt cannons -- Who’s going to fall asleep if they could miss out on getting a free T-shirt? No one, that’s who. Put the court bailiff in charge of the T-shirt cannon. He already has a regular gun. It’s a big step up from a handgun to a cannon, but hopefully they can learn how to use them.

Beer -- You can’t create a true sporting event atmosphere without alcohol. But there are so many other benefits to it. Selling beer in court would turn a profit, helping us close the deficit, and being called for jury duty would seem like a blessing instead of a curse.

Statistics -- How many trial lawyers or defense attorneys can you name? What about judges? Probably none outside of Judge Judy. That’s because we have no way to evaluate these people or debate who's the best and worst at law bars or on law talk radio or on ESPN Legal's "First (Circuit Court of Appeals) Take." Which prosecutors have the best win-loss records? Who is leading the circuit in sustained objections? Which attorneys are clutch? We want to know.

Trial clocks -- Why do people watch “Law & Order” reruns but avoid having to sit through actual trials? Because TV trials are completed in less than an hour. Somehow, the right to a speedy trial is only enjoyed in the fictional world. That needs to change. Put a scoreboard in every courtroom and wrap up trials in four 15-minute quarters divided like this: opening arguments, prosecution, defense and jury decision. No one would fall asleep during a fast-paced, full-actual-court press trial.

Justice is blind -- and that's the problem. It's time she opens up her eyes and brings America's courtrooms into the 21st century.

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