There's a simple reason you don't see a jury much on Perry Mason. Well, two reasons.
For a legal drama, you sure don't see a lot of juries.
The vast majority of Perry Mason episodes end up in the courtroom. The pioneering legal drama helped shape the genre — and it even influenced how many Americans viewed the legal system. There is a very real legal theory called "Perry Mason syndrome," which explains how some jurors expect "A-ha!" moments on the stand thanks to the clever, if unrealistic, scripting they had seen on the television show.
But here's something you might not have taken note of. There really are not many juries on Perry Mason at all. A whopping 54 actors portrayed the 278 judges credited on the series. You can easily count the juries with your fingers.
Why is that? Well, the first explanation is rather obvious — most of the courtroom scenes on Perry Mason are preliminary hearings. They simple are not jury trials. Still, there are some jury trials here and there, largely in the first season. In fact, the first jury seen appears in "The Case of the Sleepwalker's Niece," the second episode of the series. "The Case of the Daring Decoy," later that first season, features the jury seen above.
Just a quick side note about the jury in "Daring Decoy." You might recognize the old lady who handles a pistol with disgust in the jury box. She is an unknown extra seen in dozens upon dozens of Perry Mason episodes. We wrote about her recently here. Take a look:
Anyway, there is another simple reason juries did not appear much in Perry Mason: money.
"CBS knew that besides enhancing Perry's reputation, it could also save money not have to pay twelve extras to play jurors in every episode," the Perry Mason TV Show Book explained.
That's right — it simply costs more to have 12 random actors sit around the set for an episode.
Oh, one more fun little trivia tidbit about "The Case of the Daring Decoy." In the trial, Perry cross-examines an elevator operator on the stand. She testifies that she was reading a book when she spotted Perry's client. He asks the witness what book she was reading.
"You Could Die Laughing," the witness says, which elicits laughter in the courtroom. This was a 1957 detective novel written by A.A. Fair — a pen name of Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason! Yep, it was a nice little promotional plug for the author. Now it's a fun little easter egg.
Watch Perry Mason on MeTV!
Weekdays at 9 AM
*available in most MeTV markets
Weeknights at 11:30 PM
If in fact the cost of the 12 extras in the jury is the reason, then how do they explain all of the spectators sitting in the court room? Aren’t they paid as well? Couldn’t they just move 12 spectators to the jury box, and it wouldn’t cost any more money? Oh, gosh, nobody thought about that...
Not only Americans. In Italy, it led to a change in their legal system when Italians saw that the state had to prove your guilt instead of you proving your innocence. Radical idea in many parts of the world.
Jury trials would have thrown the rhythm of the story off. Remember, it was incumbent for Perry and Paul to unearth all of the facts and discovery they'd need to discredit false witnesses, disprove wild theories and expose the real killer in advance of a jury trial in a quick and timely manner in order to hasten the freedom of their client.
To go through a preliminary hearing (only to drag the client through the proceedings of a jury trial when ample evidence was on hand to free the accused invidual) would have not been very good jurisprudence IMHO.
Now I realize many of your might feel I'm in error by saying that a jury would "thrown the rhythm of the story off", but without the jury, this procedural runs like clockwork along the same rules of good journalism: "Who, what, when, where, why and how".
Should you still feel I'm in error, I then quote from Moe Howard: "I'm gonna get me a cheap lawyer!"
They were smart to set the boundaries around the hearings the way they did!