'You The Jury' Lets Viewers Be The Judge

by Laura Rosenfeld

You the Jury is going where no TV show has gone before. Come to think of it, our legal system has never exactly been taken to this level before, either. The FOX series, which premieres on Friday, April 7 at 9 p.m. ET, presents real-life civil cases, complete with attorneys, litigants, and witnesses, and lets the audience at home decide their verdicts with their votes. If you read that and said to yourself, OK, say what, now?, I would totally understand. This new series has a pretty far-out concept, so it's a good idea to figure out how You the Jury works before its debut.

Don't let You the Jury's game show-like set fool you; the show will operate similar to a real-life courtroom. The litigants have dropped their civil cases from the court system and brought them to You the Jury, series creator and executive producer Jay Renfroe explains in a preview clip of the show. In each episode, the show's prosecution and defense teams will present their cases, featuring opening statements, questioning, and cross-examining the litigants and expert witnesses by actual attorneys. The cases are said to be about "hot-button issues that define America today," covering everything from online trolling as freedom of speech to when LGBTQ rights and religious freedom collide, according to FOX's website.

But unlike in a real courtroom, the closing arguments will be delivered by the plaintiff and the defendant as they — get this — sit across from one another. Just when you thought a court case couldn't get any more intense, You the Jury goes and pulls something like this? Yeah, you're going to want to see how all of that plays out.

Host Jeanine Pirro, former Westchester County district attorney and current host of Justice with Jeanine Pirro on FOX News, is also set to give her take on the cases, and if you've ever seen her legal and political commentary on TV before, you know she's not about to hold back. "We've got the best lawyers in the country, and I get to give my opinion, so what could be better?" Pirro says in the first look at the series.

After all of that goes down, all that's left to do is reach a verdict on the case. That's where the audience comes in. Voting will be open for five minutes via text and the FOX Now app for viewers at home to decide "America's Verdict." Whatever decision viewers come to at the end of the East/Central time zone broadcast will serve as "America's Verdict." "The vote on the verdict is 100% live and binding and it will reflect the decision made by the biggest jury in history – the American public," according to the description of the series on FOX's website.

But things could change by the end of the West Coast broadcast. If the cumulative votes, meaning the East/Central and West Coast/Mountain Time zone votes combined, come to a different verdict, "the original verdict will be overturned as the final outcome of the case," according to FOX's website. You've got some power, West Coast.

Right now, it's unclear what happens to whoever is found liable in the verdict by the end of the episode. Since these verdicts are said to be binding, I can only assume that the person found liable will have to pay some sort of damages as determined by Judge LaDoris Cordell, or either party may appeal the verdict in a higher court, as is what usually happens in court cases.

But who knows? Perhaps it's possible that someone could give his or her case another shot on You the Jury in the hopes of securing a different verdict from viewers in the future. Hey, stranger things have happened on TV.