Saturday 22 June 2013

Do people who work at courts occasionally utter the phrase “the jury is still out on this one” about just a trial that is just happening?

There must be some kind of ledger of the results of the matches at a court. And there must be someone who writes these results down in said ledger. Towards the end of the day said trial scorer must be thinking about wrapping up his or her day’s work. “I want to get home for Pointless and to accomplish this I have to get the 5.04 bus.” (That’s an example of what that person might think.)

This trial diarist might then check that all the day’s results were in. They might check all the courts and see that the lights were out. There would be just one court left with the lights on and the man or woman would ask someone why if the full-time whistle had been blown by the  referee of the court. And the person would reply – without a thought to the saying  – that the jury was still out on this one.

Since finishing the previous paragraph (“This trial diarist might…..on this one.”) I have looked the phrase up on the internet. The good people of explain that the phrase has been about for “at least 150 years”. Something tells me that the caveat of ‘at least’ is crucial here because I think someone must have said the phrase before 1863 given that there were trials before 1863. Another internet search suggests England had trials from around the 12th century. I wager that in in the 650 years between the two dates I have talked about someone asked whether or not a jury was in somewhere and someone replied in the negative.

Back to my friends from they claim it (the phrase ‘the jury is still out’ for people who become confused about what it was referring to) became used in a figurative sense in the 1940s – by Americans no les.

But…and I didn’t have a point…but I find myself coming to a point (not one worth making I will concede): So, someone at a block of courts who asked someone literally where the jury was might be told that jury is still out – and when given the response “the jury is still out” might only take the figurative meaning of the phrase and just ask for a straight answer (because they might take it the person meant that they didn’t know where the jury was because they are saying ‘the jury is still out’ to mean ‘I don’t have a conclusive decision’).

They probably don’t, though, they probably just avoid the phrase by using some colloquial court language (“are t’juzzas out of crimebox 10?”; “Juzzas tint been out making ton minders up” etc). Or they just get that someone using that phrase is probably using it in a literal sense.


I actually have been in a court while the jury were out; I attended the trial of Dr Harold Shipman and for a time the jury were out of the court. However, it was so they didn’t hear some argument about whether some evidence were admissible and they weren’t making a decision. I cede that some of them might have made a decision while they were out (eg I think I will change the way I part my hair) but they weren’t making THE decision. And no-one asked me where the jury were during this time anyway so there would have been no confusion.


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