The Jury is still out

The Jury is still out : Phrases


Opinion has not yet been finalised on a particular subject; especially due to information being incomplete.



'The Jury Is Still Out' has been a staple headline in US newspapers for at least 150 years. For example, this from The New York Daily-Times, May 1850:

"The [Gardiner Trial] Jury are still out, with no prospect of immediate agreement."

The phrase continued to be used in this literal sense for many years and was called into frequent use in 1959/61 due to the interest in the Finch-Tregoff trials. Dr. Bernard Finch was a middle-aged Los Angles surgeon and Carole Tregoff was described in papers at the time as 'his shapely young receptionist'. The murder of Finch's wife and Finch and Tregoff's subsequent trials was a cause célèbre. At each of their no less than three trials the jury took their time in coming to a judgment and hacks must have got tired of typing 'Jury Still Out' each day. At the third trial, during March and April 1961, the pair were finally convicted of murder. This newspaper cutting was typical of the hundreds of stories that ran during 1959 to 1961:

The emergence of the figurative use of 'the jury is still out', i.e. as a reference to a non-legal decision and where no actual jury is involved, began around the same time. It is probably no co-incidence that by summer 1961 the phrase was in common figurative use. For example, this piece from the Wisconsin State Journal, August 1961, which is in response to the newspaper dropping Rick and Bill Hackney's 'Sir Bagby' cartoon:

Editor's Note — The "jury" is still out on the fate of Sir Bagby's presence on the Comic page.

The presence of quotation marks around the word jury indicates that no real jury was deliberating on Sir Bagby's future.

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