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Literature / You Be the Jury

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You Be the Jury is a series of Mystery Fiction juvenile books, consisting of five volumes published from 1987 to 1996 with two compilations published in 1999 and 2000. Written by Marvin Miller, these also count as Gamebooks but they owe more to Encyclopedia Brown than Choose Your Own Adventure-style books. Unlike Encyclopedia Brown, these books had you as a juror instead of a detective.

Each book had ten mysteries and followed the same format. You'd be introduced by having explained the brief aspects of law or legal proceedings (such as kidnapping, last wills, fraud and so on) as it related to the case. You were given a brief overview of the case and then both sides would tell their story. You were also given three illustrated clues labelled exhibits A, B and C to check over in conjunction with the testimony and facts of the case. Then you were given the question of guilty or not guilty, with the solutionbeing included. As with much mystery fiction aimed at children, it boiled down to whoever lied or revealed information they shouldn't have known as being guilty.


The same publisher also released one book of the similar You Be the Detective which were slightly more interactive, with each case including a scrambled picture the reader was supposed to cut out and put together to help solve the mystery.

You Be the Jury provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Law: A good number of the cases involve one of the two sides having lied in court, having lied to police or having forged evidence entered into court. In many jurisidctions, this is a crime and can carry severe criminal penalties; it can make a sentence for a convicted person even more severe. In the case mentioned below with Mr. Compson and the golf ball, that's not only lying in court, but also concocting false evidence.
  • The Case Of: How the cases were titled - "The Case of the Troublesome Twins", "The Case of the Nosy Neighbor", "The Case of the Sloppy Eater" and so on.
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  • Conviction by Contradiction: How many of the cases are decided, both for guilty and not guilty verdicts. One specific example was "The Case of the Dangerous Golf Ball" where the plaintiff, Mr. Jason Compson, claims to have been struck in the head by a golf ball from a neighboring private golf course in his own house. In addition to being injured, the accident supposedly caused him to destroy a mirror and damage a mantle he was putting said mirror on. The verdict reveals Mr. Compson faked the accident due to his injuries being on the front of his head; if the accident was real, his injury would have been on the back of the head.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How other cases were decided.
  • Left Hanging: You only get the verdict; you never learn the exact sentence when a defendant is found guilty. Justified as traditionally the judge decides that in many jurisdictions.
  • Red Herring: Usually, one or two of the illustrated evidence exhibits helped to reach a verdict. In most cases, the third piece of evidence is completely useless.
  • Twin Switch: "The Case of the Troublesome Twins" has this where a guilty twin switches clothes with his brother but his still muddy feet give him away.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In verdicts where it's revealed someone lied or faked evidence, we never find out if they get punished. See Artistic License – Law above.


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