Science Of Small Talk

The science of social behavior, one interaction at a time

Consequential Conversations, Epilogue

When words take on life and death importance.

Almost two years ago this month, I wrote a series of blog posts detailing my experiences as an expert witness on Cape Cod in the post-trial hearing of convicted murderer Christopher McCowen (see Part I of that original series).  This was a unique and fascinating hearing, as it focused on the testimony of the trial jurors describing what had (or had not) been said during their heated deliberations in McCowen's case, even though what goes on beyond the closed doors of the jury room traditionally stays behind closed doors.  Here's what I wrote about the high-profile hearing back in 2009:

"Called back into the same courtroom where they had sat in judgment of a murder case more than a year earlier, 14 jurors appeared individually before the trial judge to answer questions about aspects of their deliberations. Specifically, the hearing was intended to explore the possibility, raised by a defense motion, that racially biased statements had been made by several jurors during deliberations, and that these comments had prevented the defendant, a Black man, from receiving a fair trial."

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This blog string attracted a relatively large number of hits, and some readers at the time commented (and emailed me) to suggest that it was "a really gripping series of posts."  Well, the story just keeps on going, even as we approach the end of 2010.

Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts turned down attorney Bob George's appeal for a new trial for McCowen.  The appeal was based on several grounds, including the allegations of juror racial bias addressed in the post-trial hearing I wrote about.  For this latest chapter in the McCowen case–a saga that combines numerous issues often covered in this blog, including daily conversation, social norms, and race–see here.

Original blog series on the case:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Sam Sommers, Ph.D., is a social psychologist at Tufts University and author of the forthcoming book Situations Matter. more...

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