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Apple-Samsung trial: How high school will influence the jury

Judge Lucy Koh is desperate for her jury to rise above the sheer complications of the Apple-Samsung trial. For it to do so, perhaps the jury will go back to its high school experiences.

Yes, it's just like high school.
MovieClips/YouTube Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I don't know about the trial of the century.

But in the absence of women who are accused of doing unspeakable things to their children or famous people accused of murder, Apple and Samsung have provided a spectacle that really should have attracted the intellect of Nancy Grace.

Now that the jury is going away to see if it can keep its sanity, perhaps it's worth boiling down the essences, while these fine people struggle with a verdict form that is really a multiple choice test far more taxing than the SATs.

When the respective lawyers stood up yesterday to make their final pleas, one sensed that even they were desperate to speak in human terms, rather than deluge the jury with more technical speak.

In essence, they know that juries are depressingly human and that therefore, emotions, rather than facts, will drive their rushes to judgment.

Most of our lasting emotions tend to come from our teenage years. That's when we feel the most and when we're hurt the most. So, when the jury sits down and sinks into its third Americano, I suspect it will be swayed by the emotions that surrounded its own high school experiences.

In essence, here we have one kid accusing another kid of being naughty.

Apple (shrieking): "Please miss! He copied me! He copied me! That's cheating!"

Samsung (laconic, looking innocent): "Oh, do tell them to shut up, Miss. I didn't copy anything. Look at my answers. They aren't copies."

So take yourself back to high school, and imagine how you would feel about these two competing positions.

The only people at high school who ever complained about being copied were the swots. Yes, these were often boys and girls with pristine, shiny hair; very neat clothes; and a propensity to raise their hands first to ask or answer a question. They were the ones destined for greatness.

Somehow, deep inside, I suspect you didn't like those people very much. You found it tiresome that they would constantly hog the limelight, constantly want to be first, best, and somehow the cleverest.

Fiona's dad, Harold McElhinny, pleading her case. Vicki Ellen Behringer

Those who complain tend to lose their prettiness in a hurry. This, therefore, is Apple's problem at the high school emotional level. It's a little hard for the jury to feel sorry for a company that this week was named the most valuable in the world.

Fiona is off to Harvard, she's a three-sports star, and she's dating the quarterback -- and I'm supposed to feel sorry for her? Yeah, right.

However much Fiona Apple waves papers around to show that bad boy Samsung really did look at her creations and really did study them terribly hard, and his answers really are sort-of-almost-the-same, it's difficult to stomach a whining and glamorous swot.

Then again, the high school jury will also look at Samsung.

Here, its task will be a little more difficult. For Sammy Samsung rose from his droopy posture and drawled: "I'm sorry, but what's all the fuss about? Did anybody really think my answers were the same as Fiona's? Where does that girl get off on this stuff? Not one person that I know of thought my work was the same as her work. Fiona's just a whiner. She's always been a whiner."

The jury will, perhaps, head back to its youth and remember those students (perhaps even including themselves) who cribbed a little from the clever kids -- who even asked the clever kids to coach them before a test.

These students would prefer to have a good time rather than just sitting there being like Fiona Apple, swotting away at being the best. Yes, Fiona was cute, but a little bit too big for her platforms sometimes, no?

The jury will study Sammy Samsung's test papers and wonder whether these were really copies.

Oh, yes, they'll be forced to look at the patent laws for a moment. But in high school, one of the questions was always: "Aw, did they really mean any harm? Were they really stealing? Or might I have been tempted to do just what they did? Didn't I occasionally crib from text books and change a few words around, just to make it sound different?"

Sammy doesn't really put himself out there as much as Fiona. He's one of those kids you always see around. He's a bit weird. But he doesn't seem to get in your face all the time like she does.

You see him at parties, but, even though his parents are well off, he doesn't wear all the latest clothes, and his hair is sometimes all over the place. You never really imagine that he thinks he's great.

These, then, might well be the criteria by which the jury will make its decisions. Oh, the jury members know what they're supposed to do. The instructions will be long and detailed.

But when it comes down to it, I suspect their thought process will go like this:

Oh, I suppose Fiona's probably got a point. If I really stare closely, there are some similarities. But Sammy was doing what so many people at school do. Cutting a few corners to catch up. So I'll let Fiona know that -- yeah, yeah -- maybe there was some copying. But I'm not going to give Sammy more than a few hours' detention. Sammy's a little bit more like me, you see.