You may have read past articles on how to get out of jury duty, from feigning intolerance to making up lies to be excused from service. Unfortunately for our publisher, these tactics simply do not work. Sorry, .gas.!
The thing is, court officials have heard every excuse in the book, and they really don’t care about your troubles and conflicts — real or not. No matter what — particularly in lesser populated areas — you will get called for duty again and again until you actually run out of excuses and have to show up. You might even be marked as a “serial excuse maker,” which could increase your call frequency.
In the Pudding
In rare instances — and depending on the whims of court officials — you could be required to “prove” racism or intolerance toward law enforcement. In smaller communities, this perceived stance (no matter how much of a façade it may be) could come back to bite you in job interviews and general community interaction. The same holds true for relocation lies. They’ll eventually be revealed as untrue, and could place you in hot water with a landlord, HOA, and so on.
Method Behind the Madness
Juries do not just “happen.” There is always a selection process in place. For more high profile cases — in both situation and people involved — selection could take weeks or even months.
During this process, anywhere from dozens to possibly hundreds of potential jurors are carefully interviewed by both the defense and prosecution. Neither attorney would allow a juror to be seated who may be slanted one way or another against their case.
What Would You Do?
I was called for duty and selected to be interviewed for a trial centered around a young man who stole groceries (milk, bread, etc.) from a local “dollar store.” During the interview process, we were asked “if stealing is ever okay.” As you can imagine, viewpoints differed greatly on the matter.
Some people — citing religious reasons — said stealing is not permissible under any circumstance. Others — also citing religious reasons — felt that if the theft was justified (as in the case of preventing starvation), it could be excused, if later repented. And there was various other feedback in both defense and condemnation.
When asked for my personal opinion, I suggested assistance programs exist in this country so that stealing food should never have to be even a ‘last resort’ option. No one who expressed a staunch opinion either for or against stealing was selected for service. This is no coincidence.
I should mention that attorneys did not single out each person to express their opinion. Instead, the previously mentioned blanket question was presented, with people able to offer input as they felt compelled. Certain folks were specifically asked to share their viewpoints. This may have been based on facial expressions, body language, or other factors.
The point is that potential jurors should make a point to speak up, let their opinions be known, and also ask questions and for clarification on anything that is not clearly understood. No one will hold your hand through this process. It is up to the individual to be proactive in this regard.
Don’t be a Hater
I would be remiss in this entry if I didn’t also raise the idea that jury duty — though often perceived as a menial chore to “get out of” — is, in the end, a civic duty, and is a pillar of this American democracy.
Putting aside the “pitfalls” of service (time off work, school, family duties ; low (or no) pay ; potentially being subject to gory photos and accounts ; and so on), the right to have your case heard (and fate decided) by a panel of your peers remains one of the cornerstones of a free society.
Unsolicited advice has never been my forte, so I’m not trying to either sing the praises of or demonize jury duty. Instead — and as with most other scenarios — I urge people to take a “total picture” approach to service, and make the right choices for them, based on their personal convictions and beliefs.
by Paymon West
Residential Life Magazine