HURRICANE – The Dixie area will soon be home to a revolutionary television show that its creators hope will transform the way Americans view their justice system.
Shadow Jury is an unscripted reality series showing the processes of civil litigation. The titular group will be composed of untrained actors who will watch an actual ongoing trial and determine a verdict just as a real jury would. After viewing the shadow jury’s deliberations, audiences will also receive commentary from a practicing lawyer, retired trial judge and moderator.
Donald Purser, who is a former special agent for the U.S. Department of State and a civil trial lawyer, created the show. Over the course of his 20-plus year career, Purser represented many notable figures including musicians Billy Joel, Peter Cetera and rock band Styx. He also served as local counsel for the rock band AC/DC during a lawsuit following the death of three teenagers at a Salt Lake City concert in 1991; and he collaborated on the lawsuit following the 1984 Wilberg Mine fire in northern Utah.
“[I was inspired] to create this show because I experienced firsthand how the jury system can fail,” he said. “I was wrongly convicted in the course of a fraud trial and developed the concept of Shadow Jury while in jail.”
Participants are of varying ages, ethnicities and genders and will be selected randomly from across the country, as opposed to the traditional “jury of peers.” The majority of cases covered in the show will be civil, allowing for more comprehensive debate on matters such as the awarding of money to injured plaintiffs and punitive damages.
“This is not ‘Judge Judy,'” said Purser. “The shadow jury will hear the same evidence from the same witnesses at the actual trial and make independent factual findings. [They] must follow the same rules as the real trial jury.”
Cord Beatty, producer of Shadow Jury, said,”It’s a great concept and something that’s never been done before in reality TV. It has great potential to be a long-running series and I’m excited to be involved.”
The show is currently in the developmental stages. With the assistance of two directors, Purser and Beatty are assembling a demo episode, which will then be pitched to various television networks. The filming will take place March 9-10 at the Hurricane Courthouse. If the show is accepted to air, future episodes are expected to be filmed entirely in Southern Utah.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.