A More Sophisticated Jury Trial Puzzle: Employees Must Wash Hands

OK, OK, I have provided an update/answer to the riddle in the last post. Such an addendum is unnecessary for my first two commenters, who found the riddle beneath them. I hope they find this one slightly more challenging. At any rate, it’s more difficult than 2 + 0 = 2, which was the solution to the verdict riddle.

Let’s begin. It’s not uncommon when you excuse yourself to the bathroom in a restaurant to find a sign posted somewhere near the sink and soap dispenser that reads:

Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning To Work

If I ever open a greasy spoon there’s no way that sign will be in the restroom. Why? Because that sign does two things, at least to me.

  1. It does not convince me that someone who doesn’t automatically, subconsciously, always wash their hands will do so when reminded. If you’re not a hand washer for your own sake, you don’t change a lifetime of behavior because the boss hung a sign in the loo.
  2. It does remind me, as I walk back to my table, that there are people who don’t wash their hands after they use the john. And statistically speaking, it’s possible that one of them prepared my food. (Ewwwwww. Not the thought you should be putting in your diner’s heads.)

For puzzle purposes, it’s not important whether that sign has the same effect on you, only that it does on me, and quite possibly, on many others. To solve the puzzle, correctly answer this question:

What important lesson about jury selection does the “must wash hands” effect illustrate? (For full credit, please be very specific. Fully fleshed out examples will be awarded extra credit.)

Hint: “correct” answers are likely more than one sentence. Maybe more than one paragraph. Also, there may be more than one “correct” answer; at the very least, there are variations on a theme. This might end up being a test of how long my blog allows comments to become…
 

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Comments (8) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
JW - September 28, 2010 8:32 AM

INAL (again) but I'll give it a shot:
The important lesson is that by denying (or even bringing up legal actions) you can condemn your client to guilt of the accused crime.

For example, circumstantial evidence points to constructive possession of marijuana in a vehicle your client was driving. He denies knowledge of the drugs, but on the witness stand, he says he says, "I don't do drugs. I'm even always telling my friends to get that dope away from me."

What he really betrays when he says this is: A) He repeatedly is in the presence of other people who do drugs and B) is comfortable enough around it to call it by one of it's less common (among non-drug-users) slang terms.

It's not hard evidence, but if I was on the jury, it would make me more likely to convict.

Justin T. - September 28, 2010 8:38 AM

The lesson is clearly that jurors, like unwashed hands, are dirty and should not be touched.

Michael Simpson - September 28, 2010 9:35 AM

The first time I went to the old Borders on 183, there was a sign in the men's room that said "Employees mush wash hands". After I used the restroom, I waited and waited, but no one showed up, so I ended up washing my hands myself.

Mark Bennett - September 28, 2010 10:33 AM

Since the "Employees must wash hands before returning to work" sign is, I believe, required by law, Jamie's greasy spoon restaurant will not last long.

Like Jamie with the sign, juries assume that you discuss things in jury selection because you need to. So, for example, if you commit the jurors to follow the full range of punishment, the jury will assume that you're concerned about what they will do on punishment, will conclude that you are concerned about the outcome of the culpability phase, and will therefore reasonably deduce that your client is guilty.

(Does it make you feel any better that the sign is required by law?)

Windypundit - September 28, 2010 1:11 PM

I just wish one of those signs would end with the phrase, "and it's a good idea for the rest of you, too."

Russ Hunt - September 30, 2010 9:58 AM

I hate having to discuss the fact that we are required to file a sworn application for probation prior to starting the trial where we are contesting guilt.

So even though we have "applied" for probation in a sworn document, we don't really want it. This feels wrong--at the very least inconsistent, and it's hard to explain to the jury panel in a way that doesn't sound weaselly.

Mark Bennett - October 4, 2010 7:33 AM

Russ, do you have a spare wheel in your car? Why?

Jamie, are you going to leave us hanging?

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