Friday, July 24, 2009

Jury Dis-service

People don't want to serve on juries. That much is clear. We always hear about how the only people who serve on juries are the ones who are too stupid to get out of jury duty. A friend of mine once asked me what she should say to get out of jury duty. (I will not name names, but I know she reads this blog on occasion.) Heck, even I would find serving on some juries to be a pretty major inconvenience. No one wants to spend weeks (or months...) away from their regular lives.

But even knowing all of this, I still can't help but shake my head in amusement at how obvious some prospective jurors are in their determination not to spend a second longer than necessary in that courthouse. A panel of 12 is brought to the jury box to begin the voir dire process. To begin, the judge asks them each to introduce themselves, name, occupation, family type stuff. Some stick to the script, but an awful lot take that very first opportunity to worm their way out of service.

"Hi, I'm Joan. I'm 35 and a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful little girls. And I just can't imagine how, as a mother, I could listen to the details of this case."

So Joan doesn't have much of an excuse, but she really doesn't want to sit on this jury and wants us all to know it right off the bat.

"I'm Steve. 45. I run my own landscaping business and I'm booked solid for the next two months, but if I'm not there, there won't be a supervisor to run those job sites so I'll lose all that money."

Steve doesn't care much about the greater justice system or this particular defendant. He may not even be opposed to serving on a jury some day, as long as it's on his terms. And, really, it's kind of hard to argue with him if it's May or June.

"I've read all about this case and I think he's guilty. (Long, expectant pause) Oh, yeah, and my name is Beth."

Beth probably doesn't know squat about the case but has heard that these are the magic words for getting to go home early. Sadly for her, Beth will learn that the lawyers and judge running voir dire can tell what she's up to.

Then there's always the kitchen sink juror. The one who throws in every possible excuse.

"I'm Mike. I'm 45. I work at the university. All of my friends are cops. I have a [daughter or son] the same age as the victim in this case. Oh, and my child went to the 3rd grade with the victim. And this is the busiest time of the month at my work and no one else is trained to do what I do so no one can cover for me. And I have sciatica. And my dog went to obedience school with the defense lawyer's neighbor's dog."

Mike, you are not fooling anyone. None of you are fooling anyone. And not one of you said the magic words that got you sent on your merry way. And, no, I'm not going to tell you what they are. Sorry. But I did get a nice chuckle out of watching you all try.


BellsforStacy said...

the thing that bothers me ... is that myself ... who loves jury duty ... is never selected.

I've gone two or three times. Never selected.

S said...

I've never even been called. At least you have a chance of making a final cut. I would never make it through peremptory strikes.

Meryl said...

I actually did get called up finally--last two weeks of August. Not that I have any hope of getting on the jury, but just getting to go watch voir dire for a day would be fun.

Dan said...

The magic words being "I'm morally opposed to capital punishment, and could not vote to convict in such a case under any circumstances".

S said...

No, Dan! Not those words! We need those people to stay on juries! (Not that I'm advocating lying...)

Have fun in voir dire, Meryl.

BellsforStacy said...

You guys have law degrees! They don't want ya'll! You're too smart.

Which makes me really sad. What kind of justice system doesn't want smart people making decisions?

Anonymous said...

Tell the judge that you will listen to the evidence and decide the facts and the law. Tell him you believe in the Constitutional concept of jury nullification. You also need to be prepared to recite exactly what jury nullification is, should the judge ask you what it is.

Anali said...

That was hilarious about the dog! I've been called for jury duty a few times, but never get picked. I guess I probably won't.

While I was in law school, I took a really cool class about computers in the law. In my group, we designed a computer program that would do voir dire. It was quite fun actually.

E. Peevie said...

I just got picked to serve on a jury for a trial that's going to last 2-3 weeks. Many prospective jurors before me got dismissed even though it was very clear to me and the other jurors that they were lying and scamming.

I think it's easy to get out jury duty if you're willing to lie.

S said...

That's quite true, E., because who wants a juror who is willing to lie under oath? I checked out your blog, so I know that it will be a major inconvenience to you to serve for a 3 week trial, but we do appreciate your service. Our system wouldn't work if everyone lied to get out of jury duty.

I'll be curious to hear a report of your jury duty, but of course, only after the conclusion of the trial. :)

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