Jury film gets updated

EVERETT – Get ready, folks, for a blockbuster film coming soon to a courtroom near you.

It may not be a big moneymaker, but over the years this 23-minute video will be seen by hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians who are called to jury duty.

It’s a new jury orientation film designed to acquaint prospective jurors with what they’re likely to encounter before and during jury trials at all court levels in the state.

Michael V. Martina / The Herald

LaVon Hardison, acting as a judge, laughs between takes during the first of two days of filming of a new juror orientation video at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday. The film currently being used is more than 20 years old and features Raymond Burr, who played TV lawyer Perry Mason. Producer Les Profitt adjusts equipment in the background.

It will replace a two-decades-old film narrated by actor Raymond Burr of “Perry Mason” and “Ironside” fame.

Burr died in 1993, and the gist of the old orientation film used statewide is simply out of date, said Ann Howard, Superior Court operations manager in Snohomish County.

The idea to revamp the film was Howard’s, and the county secured a $4,000 grant from the Washington Foundation for State Courts. Another $14,000 was put up by the state Administrator of the Courts – with the blessing of the state Supreme Court – to make up the rest of the cost, Howard said.

The stages for the filmmaking effort were the first and fifth floors of the county courthouse building in Everett. The actors are mainly volunteers, people involved in court activity from here and elsewhere. An actor played the judge.

The film crew comes from the Department of Information Services, which produces media messages for state agencies.

So, it was a case of “lights, camera, action” as a court case was played out as backdrop to a narrated script, which will be added later.

“Take 249,” producer Les Profitt said. “Stand by. We’re rolling.”

The cameras rolled for another short segment of a film that will, just like in Hollywood, be pieced together in an editing room.

The “judge,” actor LaVon Hardison, addressed someone in the jury box: “Juror No. 3, I see you have your hand up. Is there anything you need to share with the court?”

It was a snippet that may or may not make the final version.

The movie also talks about the process lawyers use to ask questions of possible jurors in selecting the panel used in a given trial. The film talks about the trial itself and the role various court staff play. There’s also a section on juror deliberations.

“The idea is to give the jury a little more of what to expect,” Howard said.

The lesson in jury experience is played against the backdrop of a make-believe criminal assault case where someone used a baseball bat to seriously injure another person.

There’s also some evidence, such as X-rays, witnesses, a pretend prosecutor (played by Judge Eric Lucas’ law clerk Rob Zarkos) and a pretend defense attorney (veteran Everett lawyer Pete Dewell).

Of course, there’s a defendant; a bearded man who was spruced up and dressed in a sport coat and slacks.

It appears to be a real court experience, and that’s the intent.

“This is all focused on the jury’s participation and what to expect,” Howard said.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or haley@heraldnet.com.

The late actor Raymond Burr stars in and narrates the current jury video, which will be replaced by a new video filmed in Snohomish County.

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