Yuri Tarnopolsky                                                                                                                          ESSAYS
                                                                               Essay 38. On Football

soccer. justice. truth. competition. jury trial. jury consultant. 2002 FIFA World Cup. ethics. ordering chaos.  evolution. social critics.

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Essay 38. On Football

Unlike fate and soul, the works of justice are accessible to direct observation. We can accept the fate and prosper without the soul, but life without justice could be uncomfortable. Is justice yet another phantom from a bygone era?

I am indifferent to any sport except the European football. It is called soccer only in the USA, football everywhere else, and I see no disrespect in using the global name. parlance.

My interest in football is by no means passionate. I watch only the World Cup and only if I am in the mood. I do not even remember whether I watched the 1998 Cup, but I followed most of the 2002 World Cup.

I am attracted to football as an allegory of life. Like life itself, the game is based on cooperation and competition, individual abilities and teamwork, intelligence and physical strength, making mistakes, breaking the rules and being punished for that. The players can be happy and miserable, aggressive and gallant, determined and broken.

The action in football, as well as in real life, is composite and punctuated. It has a beginning, a sequence of episodes with their own beginnings and ends, and the final end. As the night sleep, vacation, or disastrous accident interrupt our life, so referee breaks the game with his whistle, until it is all over.

There is something old-fashioned in football. It looks anachronistically human on the American TV. The game of the entire world is practically continuous and can be stopped only for a short time. It resists the scorched-earth commercialization. The players do not rely on high tech gear to protect them from powerful collisions, falls, and hits. Football can be played naked and barefoot. It contains elements of both ballet and military strategy and employs some fine technique. Both the male dancers and football players often have exceptionally strong legs. The difference is that the ballet is learned by rote and football is always improvised. A good game is very fast and as densely packed with suspense as a good thriller. A low-level football, however, can be deadly boring.

The purpose of my Essay is not to extol football over any other sports game.
In this Essay I am going to put side-by-side football and court justice, but not because both tease the public thirst for entertainment. Football is a descendant of the Coliseum and the law claims the same Roman ancestry .

A layman who came from the dark (there was no jury trial in the Soviet Russia), I found the professional sport and system of justice some of the least engaging aspects of the American life. They both have roots in the all-human mythology, where the hero fights face-to-face with a villain, but the sweet American public grants reverence to both.

The suspense of the trial is the same as in a competition between two teams. It ends either in a victory of one of them or in a draw (hung jury). The similarity between trial and game is enforced by the presence of the judge on the bench and referee in the football field. The goal of the trial parties is to win each of the twelve jurors who, unlike the leather ball and the wooden football goal, are as human as the rest of participants, and, probably, even more.

In a courtroom, the outcome of a trial can be a matter of life and death for the defendant. In the field, however dramatic the game, it is about running fast, chasing the ball, and scoring goals. The football players—and a national pride—can suffer only traumas and humiliation. While life is life, football is a professional performance. Display of joy is welcome but anger and malice are off good manners.

Both contests start with the initial state of uncertainty. The outcome is not known in advance, although the probability of each outcome can be approximately evaluated beforehand. The more certainty, the less interest in the result, the more sensational the reversal of fortune.

From the point of view of thermodynamics, the contestants want to resolve the uncertainty, each party in a different way. They want to decrease chaos and turn it into a firm order, which requires thermodynamic work. Thus, the freezer spends electrical energy to decrease the chaos of molecular movement in liquid water and turn it into the much more ordered ice.

NOTE: While chaos is always the same, given the degree of it, the same degree of order always corresponds to at least two (and up to a very large number) different particular orders. Order means one of several or many states of the system. Chaos means that we either do not know or are not interested in the actual state, or it changes too fast and we have a superposition of many states.

The court judge or the field referee could just declare the verdict before the trial or the final score before the game, but this is not how the system is designed. The law of the land requires the system to come to the final state on its own, following the ancient idea of justice as the opposite of tyranny and whim. The idea of justice, as the idea of truth in science, implies that there is a certain actual state of things that can be discovered.

I suspect that the ultimate reason why the trial by peers came to being. It was a strong gut feeling, long before any mathematics, that if any single person can be unfair even with the probability 0.5 (50%), the probability that twelve such people are unfair is very small (0.5 exp12 = 0.000244). The trial by peers, therefore, reflects a significant pessimism about human nature, which the practice of justice seems to confirm.  Yet the probability that the jury is faire is exactly 0.000244, too. The institution of jury believes in the inherent fairness of people. But there is no jury to judge the notion of fairness.  It is what you believe is fair.

The just (fair) verdict or the score must reflect the truth. In my eyes, this belief puts the concept of fairness on a shaky ground because the truth is a matter of personal belief, unless there are general criteria of testing it. If we regard the trial and the football match as experiments that reveal the truth, the criteria are not met because the experiments cannot be repeated independently.

If the purpose of the trial is to find the truth, it may not be found. Innocent people get sentenced to death and murderers go free. Nevertheless, in many cases, probably, most of them, the evidence is so convincing that the apparently impossible task of a unanimous stand of twelve independent people on a single issue can be achieved. The troubling problem for me is that the verdict has no outside proof of its justness. It is dramatically different from the scientific view that a truth is what can be confirmed independently by other scientists, similarly equipped, and cannot be refuted by any of them.

The trial is not about the truth: it is about the verdict. As it often happens, rigorous logic is not always practical. In fact, probably, most verdicts reflect the truth. It must be terrifying not to have an independent test. Riding the vehicle of justice could be as risky as driving, flying, and sailing, or even more. This is why doctors have malpractice insurance.

Is football fair? There are plenty examples of disputed referee decisions or even the very facts of the game. The 2002 World Cup had some incidents, too. The football is not about the truth, either. It is about the final score.

The monumental difference is that the crime is usually hidden from the public when it happens, while the football is all on TV with replays and close-ups.

The system of criminal justice is not widely trusted in America. In The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, which "brings together data from more than 100 sources about all aspects of criminal justice in the United States," I found the response to the question "How effective is the American criminal justice system?" In particular, the answers concerning reaching just outcomes at criminal trials distributed in 2000 the following way:

Very effective             13%
Somewhat effective    55%
Not very effective       22%
Not effective at all 5%
Don't know   5%

In 2001 only 50% had a great deal of confidence in the US Supreme Court, and 31% had some.

I believe that this kind of negativism and pessimism has something to do with the very nature of justice. Different people have different understanding of the truth and justice, as well as of the function of the jury and the entire complicated system of the law formulated in an intimidating language and based on precedents and statutes that can go back for centuries.

EXAMPLE of an old view widely quoted on the Web:

For more than six hundred years—that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215—there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such law.
              Lysander Spooner  (1852), straight from the chapter entitled:  The Right of Juries to Judge of the Justice of Laws.

Besides, the general mistrust of any establishment is typical for an individualistic and competitive society. Another reason for the skepticism could be that only the high profile cases can be seen on TV, and a high profile case is something very much like a high class football. Both big court case and high-class football are loaded with uncertainty and energy in the form of money, and concentrated energy can produce various effects, including the unintended ones. When a lot of money is involved, all the probabilities are skewed. This is the major principle of social thermodynamics, as I see it.

With so many reasons, there must be a single and simple one (Essay 28, On Simple Reasons). Here it is. When the society is relatively homogenous and its members deviate little from the average, views on any subject, whether positive or negative, are mostly in agreement with each other. When a society is fragmented, balkanized, or antagonized (see Essay 11, On the Rocks), a consensus is hardly possible. For example, in a society of cops and robbers the view of justice would reflect the ratio of both. Regarding political issues, the same would happen in a society split into Republicans and Democrats.

There are games intermediate between football and trial: the open contest judged by a jury, for example, in gymnastics, ballroom dances, figure skating, and beauty pageants. It lacks the single referee and the contestants are not teams but individuals. At least in Olympic figure skating, fraud has been recorded, and I doubt that beauty pageants have any objective value. They have nothing to do with the categories of true and false. They have something in common with the ancient justice based on torture or throwing the suspect into a river for the verdict of God. The survivor of the trial by water and fire was presumed innocent.

Football is not about the truth, either. Like any other contest, its only result is the final score. Nevertheless, the degree of justice or fairness may vary. In the whodunit stories, where the mystery is solved on the last page, the reader is engaged in the search for the truth because the author is its keeper. In the real court and field dramas, the verdict has no personal guarantor against any reasonable or unreasonable doubt. In an oppressive societies, like the China and Soviet and Putin’s Russia, political trials always have the author.

It seems that the popularity of sports in America may be rooted in the wide spread belief that the competition in sports is just. I do not know what justice is, although I tinkered with justice in Essay 30, Tinkering with Justice.

Thinking about justice, I tend to believe that justice, whatever it is, can never be perfect by its very nature. Justice is the least socially stressful  form of injustice.

I am intrigued by the difference in the way chaos is ordered in the courts and on the fields. In modern society the cost of order is energy in the form of money. In the  totalitarian  societies social chaos is ordered by mere physical force. The sports came from deciding a dispute neither by compromise, nor by tossing the coin, but by a fight.

A very small part of the football money goes directly to create the supply of ATP to the brain and muscles during the game. Most of it goes to decrease the probability of loss. One of the reasons for the high cost of the high-class team is that the football game is very hot. The number of events happening per unit of time and, especially, a high degree of chaos requires a lot of training to build order in the "society of mind," as Marvin Minsky described the general architecture of our intelligence. It is done by training and selecting and importing best coaches, strategies, and players.

The larger the base of selection, the more probable a lucky selection.
The larger the base of selection, the more costly any selection.
The worship of Lady Luck requires burning money on her altar.

Small random systems can have a large degree of uncertainty. A tossed coin, the smallest possible random system, has the maximal possible uncertainty of outcome until it hits the ground. Any highly ordered small system, for example, good clockwork, has a very low uncertainty. From a large enough real life system we can expect a statistically or sometimes analytically predictable behavior. Some of its states and changes from one state to another are impossible, others have a very low probability, and others are almost certain to happen. This is why we cannot manage the behavior of molecules in a volume of gas, unless we freeze them all, but can partially manage human behavior, individual as well as collective.

The way to success, therefore, requires managing a dynamic (changing) system of a certain size. Ambitious football nations go all around the world in search for best players and strategies. The stars are well paid. The FIFA World Cup is a large undertaking with a lot of teams, games, and assisting personal. In a large system, we can expect to get close to a kind of a natural truth: the roster of three top winners. To get to the truth even closer, we would force all the teams fight the entire year with each other, which is absurd. The Football Cup is an acceptable approximation to a "truth."  I believe a mathematician could evaluate the fairness of this approximation. The competition, in a sense, is an experiment, like the separation of a shaken salad dressing into oil and vinegar, which allows for measuring their ratio.

Turning to the trial by jury, where is the large dynamic system that would provide a basis for approximating the truth?

Here we are facing a much larger and more general question about life-like systems (life, society, Things, ideas). Why do they grow?

Survival means managing chaos: decreasing the probability of failure and increasing the probability of success. Everything in the modern society is growing: government, bureaucracy, companies, sports, entertainment, medical care, and social problems?  The life-like system grows because of the mesoderm principle (Essay 15, On menage a trois in the Stone Age): if two parts of a large evolving system interact, an intermediate part develops between them. Its function is to manage the interaction, i.e., to decrease chaos on the interface and stabilize the system.  

The larger the system, the more chaos arises from the interaction of its components, the more new parts appear to mitigate chaos, the larger the system becomes. It all makes sense because the area of chaos becomes local, small, and less life-critical in a larger system.

The growth can go on only if there is a source of energy to feed it. This is why authoritarian societies prevailed in the early history: they did not burn the mineral fuel to grow food, as we do. The authoritarian hierarchy decreases its chaos by its very structure. It works like an air conditioner: cooling the room, heating the street. Naturally, the external temperature throughout history was high and war and pillage were the everyday reality. It seems to me that the American foreign policy for at least the last fifty years has been not to eliminate wars but to keep them local. This is a separate subject, however.

Bureaucracy and mediators of all kinds grow and cool down the system, reaching the size when chaos in the system is strictly local (no systemic crises) and it does not put the entire system in danger. In due time, they develop too much chaos themselves and require a new department to manage it. From the system where most people manufactured various Things, a hot dynamic capitalist type system moves, as some observers unrealistically extrapolated it, toward the state when most people just process information. The social organism differentiates into organs and tissues, and this may be an answer to a large segment of modern social criticism predicting the loss of work, soul, order, values, culture, and democracy, in other words, the Western society as we knew it. We can as much indict evolution for the change, as the winter for the snow. We do not know what is going to happen, but we know that no growth lasts forever and we know basic thermodynamic alternatives in terms of temperature, energy, and entropy.

Back to the courtroom, the largest system with high uncertainty is the jury. It is large not because of the large size of the jury, which is moderate, but because of the complexity of each human member. To get a consensus from twelve human beings, often balkanized, seems an overwhelming task.

That everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty is a part of mythology. The defendant is neither innocent, nor guilty: his position is uncertain. Moreover, the degree of this uncertainty (i.e., entropy) is usually rather low: there are facts and conclusions that have already justified the trial. The court game has been planned in a series of thought experiments. The strategy of the prosecution has been developed. What can the defendant's lawyer do to work against a high probability of defeat?

The mesoderm that has appeared between the lawyer and the jury during the last two decades is the institution of jury consultants. They try to decrease the chaos of the jury thinking by studying the behavior of jurors and recommending their selection before they take their sits in the box.

Here are some excerpts illustrating the work of the jury consultants.


The jury consultant can be a very important member of any defense/prosecution team. This psychologist uses numerous past studies of juror behavior in order to maximize the probability   of a juror swaying towards his teams side when it comes time to decide the defendants fate. These consultants can be stunningly accurate and could make or break the trial. A particular example of a selection process involves the defendant's occupation--many jury consultants will  immediately protest any teachers that are on the jury. It has been found that such members  tend to be more judgmental and are likely to vote for guilty. Secondly, often blue collar workers are removed when possible. Its seems that these members of society tend to see things more  in black and white with very little gray allowed (i.e., alternative explanations are rarely accepted).

Jury consultants may also use a number of questions in order to evaluate a jury members   personality characteristics. They will often (if working for the defense) try to eliminate anyone  they define as having an authoritarian personality. Again these individuals are very judgmental and are very unlikely to sway from there stances. They also hold a large influence over jury  members. A new personality measure that is often considered is a person's level of moral   reasoning. This involves the level to which a person's moral beliefs have developed. For   example, a high moral reasoning will go beyond the law if it seems to be morally unacceptable.  They will also be less prejudiced towards racial and socioeconomic differences (something that is a major problem with today's courts).

                                                          Michael Decaire, September 12, 1999


 Moore set up pretrial focus groups to determine what characteristics
 would make a sympathetic or problematic juror for the defense, as
 well as what approaches to presenting its case would be most
 effective with any given jury.

 Through the first focus group and mock trial, Moore learned that the
 female members of the mock jury didn't believe the defense attorney
 and were much less interested in DNA evidence than the male jurors
 were. During jury deliberation, the women questioned the credibility of
 Miller's 911 call made after he found the bodies.

 "I see myself as the interface between the attorney and the jury or
 juror pool," said Barbara Rich Bushell, president of Jury Dynamics in
 Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

                                   Mary Morrissey, Counseling Today, April 1998

Can Jury Dynamics beat General Dynamics in the future?


Tuesday, April 2, 2002— SPRINGFIELD—Prosecutors  who won convictions in the Kristen H. Gilbert  murder case spent $264,512 on experts, including  $82,946 for a jury consultant.

The highest paid expert was Jeffery Frederick, the jury consultant who received
 $82,946 for work in advising Assistant U.S. Attorneys William M. Welch and
 Ariane Vuono in finding 12 jurors from an original pool of 600.

The defense of Gilbert cost $1.6 million, including $532,930 for experts and
 investigators. At $125 an hour, attorneys David Hoose, Harry Miles and Paul
 Weinberg earned a total of $1.1 million.
( Judith B. Cameron, Daily Hampshire Gazette, April 2, 2002 )

My intent here, as everywhere in the Essays, is not to judge any system, but to illuminate, often to my own amazement, the process of its evolution. Whatever exists, came from somewhere and will turn into something else. We can understand the origin and the fate of things by focusing on change, as well as on the stable patterns (I call them "drawers" in Essay 32. The Split). The change is on the surface of things and the patterns are in our mind. We would never notice one without the other.

The Western civilization, as some might believe, can be global someday. I believe so, too, because it is a civilization of man-made Things, and the Things have no borders, culture, and historical memory, not yet. The essence of the process is the unstoppable development of the intermediaries in its organs and tissues. But the West may look quite different “someday” and almost beyond recognition.

The computers enormously amplify the ability of humans to create and process information, and this is why the previously narrow layer of symbolic analysts, as Robert Reich renamed the white collars in his The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), exploded in the last two decades. The modern social mesoderm controls the natural chaos of the free society by controlling the exchange of information. The problem with the symbolic analysts is that the lion's share of the information they handle is useless by its very nature and is almost immediately lost. It is like the thousands of acorns the oak tree produces: few can ever put roots. Naturally, a food chain will inadvertently develop, absorbing more and more humans, with less and less opportunities to get to the higher tiers, more and more gray shade in the formerly snow-white collars, and more and more drones for a single Board queen. Will Artificial Intelligence unseat the sinful humans in the information business? Yes, when AI develops its own idea of sin. 

The process of the interface differentiation is by no means new. It is a pattern as old as the merchant trade squeezed in between the manufacturer and the consumer. It is even older: as old as the alpha male who regulates relations between the members of his pack. Whatever we may think about the current course of events, to criticize it means to criticize our own human nature, together with the animal nature that gave birth to it, and even with the lucky design of the Solar System that gave birth to life on Earth.

It does not mean that such criticism as ridiculous. To act in a senseless way, without any practical goal, and to go against the tide means to have a soul.

But why not to judge? Because there is no justice. Instead, watching the development of the criminal system, we can see the evolution of the discovery of the truth. The idea of approximating the truth displaces the idea of justice. The new scientific and technological methods can do it better and better, pushing out moral categories. Of course, the industry—and therefore business—of truth (scientists, specialists, journalists, consultants, and experts) will further swell the mesoderm, unless some new factors step in. The substitution of facts and observable regularities of a scientific character for moral and ethical categories could be one of the most radical components of the current transformation of the Western civilization. I watch this process with historical fatalism: I will not see the advanced stage of the transformation, and the young people would not see anything different.

Coming out of the courtroom into the football field, we can feel an important difference. Not only the football field, but also the system itself is bigger. It allows for a stunning wealth of statistics.

The FIFA World Cup 2002 analyzes the games in terms of 65 different indicators (see APPENDIX 1) describing goalkeepers, goal-scoring stars, individual and team attack, defense, and disciplinary violations and punishments. Some of the indicators are relatively large numbers. For example, it was calculated that the finalists made over 2000 short passes and around 800 long passes during the Cup.

The four finalists were Brazil, Germany, Turkey, and Korea. Except defense and discipline, all four finalists were pretty close, and Turkey and Korea were surprisingly so. It should be noted that some analysts predicted a big disappointment for the fans of Brazil and Germany.

The team positions in the order of a decreasing attacking ability were:

1. Brazil
2. Germany
3. Spain
4. Turkey
5. Korea.

The positions in the order of decreasing defense were:

8. Germany
10. Brazil
23. Turkey
24. Korea

The order of decreasing disciplinary violations (yellow card) was:

1. Turkey
2. Germany
3. Korea
18. Brazil

I have an impression that Brazil won the World Cup 2002 "because" of the highly disciplined team behavior while Germany was able to come second "because" of the high thermodynamic temperature of the game, as the violations testify. The statistics also shows that Brazil has a higher number of stars, while Germany is good at teamwork (long passes).

My impressions are by no means any approximation to the truth. It is a hypothesis. It cannot be tested by the statistics of subsequent World Cup Games because the teams will be different in four years. Nevertheless, analyzing a large number of results, one can develop the best strategy or just explain the results post factum. The size of the system in the World Cup is incomparably smaller than that of society, but large enough to explore it with the purpose of discovering some "truth."

The closer the teams by their strength, skills, and style, the less justice can be expected, however, because the chances then come close to 50:50. Several times during the games, in a draw, after the additional time had been exhausted, the outcome was decided by striking penalties until an advantage was achieved. At this medieval stage of trial by fire, the previous game was completely irrelevant.

The court system does not provide such statistics. It demonstrates, however, in the same manner as football does, a gradual outflow of moral categories from the fabric of  civilization. And that is one of my major observations about how our civilization evolves. We can see the vigorous evolution from Archimedes to Dean Kamen but a languid crawl from Aristotle to John Rawls.

This Essay is about criminal justice, which has a competitive aspect. The subject of justice is much larger and John Rawls is, probably, a good introduction.

Do we need justice? As Philip Rieff prophetically suggested long ago, in 1966, in his The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith After Freud (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987 [1966]) all we need is to feel good about ourselves.

NOTE: That was something social psychology found out about the same time (theories of cognitive dissonance and balance) and physicists knew since Archimedes about inanimate systems. History, however, is propelled by people who never feel good about something.

From a different angle, justice aside, the overall picture looks as follows:

1. Tools came to existence as extensions of human hands: they took place as mediators between the hand, driven by the mind, and the objects.

2. Specialists and consultants developed from the objects as mediators between the objects and the hand driven by the mind.

3. They meet and fuse in the middle in the process of the commercialization, mechanization, and “desanimation” of the mind, which evokes the reaction of numerous American social critics (Jeremy Rifkin, Christopher Lasch, Kenneth J. Gergen).

Criticism, justly or wrongly, presumes the existence of a truth of a right-or-wrong type, serving as a yardstick for justice.

Evolution is the greatest game we know—The World Struggle for Existence Non-Stop Cup—second, probably, only to the stock market. As in any competition, however, there is no other truth in any single act of evolution, other than the score, the verdict, and the success. There is no justice, either: victors are not judged.

Every trial is a one-time event and it does not provide any statistics to judge whether any truth is found. Only heavens know. Regarding justice, my personal conclusion is that justice in a divided, stratified, and fragmented society is contradiction in terms because the trial by peers is rarely possible. Capitalist democracy and justice for all are two bears in one den. Often, however, people are just people and neither wolves nor bears.




From The Road to the Law, by Dudley Cammett Lunt, Whittlesey House, New York, 1932, pp. 177-178.

Criminal law has ever been the target of abusive comment. The complaints that it is over technical, too slow, cumbersome and productive of a wooden justice at best, are probably as old as the law itself. Yet much of this criticism is misdirected energy. It should never be forgotten that the criminal law is a product of human ingenuity and as such is possessed of the imperfections that characterize its creators. Furthermore, in the regulation of any anti-social activity a certain point is soon reached where, in the hackneyed phrase, a line must be drawn. The results are necessarily arbitrary. Finally, the abuses which the sons of men delight to decry are due more often than not, to the incapacity of those whose function it is to enforce the law, rather than to some vice inherent in the law itself.



"Survival of the fittest," the mantra of Darwinism, drew a lot of criticism for its circular, and therefore meaningless, formula. It made many biologists feel uncomfortable. In my opinion, the formula is flawed because "survival" relates to the result of the game of survival, and the "fittest" relates to a truth derived from the "survival." Suppose the land is sinking and the ocean is rising. The fish seems the fittest, regardless of the outcome.  In this example, however, the fish is not fighting another fish, and there is no contest.


For Aristotle, the philosopher is not a king, and the king is not a philosopher (the philosopher imitates the best life—God's—which is not  political). The best life is the philosophical life; the philosopher is more  noble and happier than the ruler. Truth is higher than justice.
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 Scientific wisdom is higher than justice, but Aristotle gives "justice" to  justice in the Ethics.   (Gordon L. Ziniewicz).

4.  The problems with the jury in modern society are well known. There is a whole Jury Bookshelf  with such titles among others as:

Judging the Jury, by Valerie P. Hans & Neil Vidmar (1986),
We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy, by Jeffrey Abramson (1994),
We, The Jury: The Impact of Jurors on Our Basic Freedoms, by  Godfrey Lehman (1997).

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (1966) is a caustic satire of the entyre system.



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