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how to get out of jury duty This issue of the Closet Cleaner is late because I had jury duty. It sucked. I spent three days waiting to be selected, and then I was selected. The trial lasted five days, and it was bullshit: Guy uses a fake silver pistol to rob a fast food joint of $127, and while robbing it, the grips on his gun fall off. He's arrested a few blocks away with the stolen cash in his pocket (including 50 one-dollar bills wrapped in a rubber band) and a silver pistol WITH NO GRIPS! No waaaay! He didn't wear a mask, so three employees got a good look at him, including the clerk who gave up the money, and when she's asked if the man who robbed her is in the courtroom, she looks at each of us in the jury, then at the prosecutor, then at the defense attorney, then at the judge, and then the defendant, and she starts sobbing! We went to recess, even though I never understood why they called it that, because all we did was sit in a room and read old magazines. No milk, no touch football, no overweight lunch ladies telling us to get the hell out of the street.
The trial was spent establishing things like, yes, the grips fit the gun, and the guy ran when the cops approached him, and he had a sweaty black T-shirt with white lettering and a black baseball cap with white lettering in the gym bag he used to slug the pursuing officer, and that's EXACTLY WHAT THE ROBBER WAS WEARING. The defense attorney then tries to plant some reasonable doubt by noting that a witness told one of his investigators that the robber was wearing a white shirt. But it wasn't enough to convince me, and good thing too because I learn after the trial that the guy also had robbed the same joint a week before, and he was wearing a white shirt, and that's why the worker became confused. I guess when you get held up that often, it's easy to get confused.
Anyway, after all that, I was chosen as an alternate, so I didn't get to deliberate. It took my colleagues about 40 minutes to find the guy guilty.
Initially I was proud to be selected to serve — doing my civic duty and all that. But by the time it was over, I was disillusioned. Because there are relatively few residents in Washington for all the crimes committed here, you're guaranteed to be called back every two years. The next time, I'm going to have a list of excuses ready so I can be excused. People are shameless about it, anyway. Every time the judge asked the prospective jurors a question such as "Does anyone here have any religious reasons that they can't serve?" this woman next to me would think a second, then go, "Oh, I do!" and raise her hand.
Here's my list, in case you get called and need to demonstrate your inability to render a fair and impartial judgment. Wait until the judge calls you to the bench to discuss your situation before you blurt any of these out, so the other commoners won't steal your material:

  • I can tell if people are guilty by looking at them.
  • I'm attracted to you, your honor.
  • If a police officer told me I was a bug, I would believe him.
  • Is it murder if I haven't been caught?
  • My religion prohibits me from sitting near other people.
  • Would I have to bathe?
  • Can each of my personalities vote in deliberations?
  • Laws are for sissies.
  • Your marshall's handcuffs are turning me on.
  • I'm allergic to justice.
  • I'm deaf. (Answer questions thereafter by cupping hand and shouting "What?")
  • A pit bull named [defendant's first name] just killed my baby.
  • I have Tourette's Syndrome, you fucking asshole.
  • I get dizzy if I try to weigh evidence.
  • Have you ever done this, your honor? (Chop off your ear with a razor).
  • An eye for an eye? I say we take his head for an eye! (Point at defendant).

in the news

In Athens, Georgia, a judge sentenced a juror to two days in jail. In order to get out of jury duty, she had someone phone the courthouse to say her father had died. The suspicious judge sent an investigator to find the father, who was very much alive at a local trailer park.

In Memphis, defense attorney Leslie Ballin called one group of citizens the "jury pool from hell." One potential juror admitted he was arrested after he "almost shot" his nephew because the boy wouldn't come out from under his bed. Another said, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite" and walked out. A third said he was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop posing as a hooker. "I should have known something was up," he said, since "she had all her teeth." After a jury had been selected, Ballin's client was found not guilty.

A cosmetologist showed up with her summons to the Denver District Court in 2012 with her hair in curlers, socks and shoes that didn't match and horrible makeup. She told a court reporter she had been a victim in the past of domestic violence, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and now lived in the streets. The judge excused her. A few months later, the judge was listening to a radio show when a caller went on about how she had faked the story and how amused her salon customers had been when she told them. According to the Denver Post, the woman was charged with perjury and attempting to influence a public servant, both felonies.

In Southampton, England, in 2012, a judge read aloud a letter from a potential juror who claimed he couldn't serve because he was homophobic and racist. The man wrote, "I hold extreme prejudices against homosexuals and black/foreign people and couldn’t possibly be impartial if either appeared in court." He also said that in deliberations, he would just vote with the majority to get it over with. When questioned by the judge, the man insisted he also didn't feel he had the right to "judge anyone." The judge dismissed him and wondered aloud whether the man should not only be serving on a jury but "whether you should be doing anything responsible in society at all."

visitor feedback

From David Letterman (reading from his second Top Ten book):
Here are other ways to get out of jury duty: (1) Keep saying very loudly, "Hey, who's frying baloney?" (2) Say you're looking forward to hearing judge sing — like on Cop Rock. (3) Ask if there will be opportunities to examine bloody undershirts. (4) Tell them you've already done jury duty on Matlock.

From Joe Huffman:
"The voices in my head told me it was a good day to clean my guns." I thought of that after I had left the judge's chambers. We convicted the guy yesterday. If I had known about all the things we weren't allowed to hear, I probably would have held out for acquittal or a mistrial. The judge would not let the accused put up the defense he wanted. The defendant would have said, "Yes, I did take my kids and left the state without telling my ex-wife where we were, but she has been beating them, here are the police reports, here are the witnesses to the beatings, I did what I had to do to protect my kids." The judge ruled that was hearsay and irrelevant. We didn't have a clue as to what his reasons were. I'm not at all sure justice was done, and I was part of it. That sucks.

From Sue Simpson:
I have been searching the Internet for days trying to find a bonafide reason to get out of jury duty. I was disappointed with your article because I can't use any of them. Since you went through the whole stinking process, you can understand why I am trying to get out of it. I even sent a letter stating that I would make a rotten juror because I hate drunk drivers and people who don't pay their bills. I told them I couldn't find a babysitter who could take care of my children who have severe allergies and asthma and require medication and breathing treatments. Forget the fact that I can't be out of my two-year-old daughter's sight for two minutes (including the bathroom) because she has a fit and holds her breath and passes out. The judge told me to find a sitter. I can't believe that people leave their children with child-care providers who watch 15 kids in a 12 by 12 basement with no windows and cement floors. I am sooooo serious. Why should I leave my kids in a basement? Well, they say, maybe you have a relative who will help out. Forget it. My mother is a manic depressive-obsessive compulsive alcoholic who talks on the phone every day for four hours to a radio announcer because they can't get together in person for fear of sexual arousal. My mother watched my kids the other day when I had a migraine and was puking all night and she didn't come to visit for a week after that. Plus we have a home business that I have to run. This is all true and I still can't get out of jury duty. I have to call them every night after 5 p.m. I can't make any appointments because I might have to serve. So I called and asked if I could be excused if I had a note from my doctor and they said it depends on what the note says. My doctor will write the note tomorrow but I don't know what to tell him to write.

From Anonymous:
I have to go see if they choose me for a jury today. The "I can tell by looking at them if they're guilty has worked twice for me allready." I'm stuck and in need of a new plan. My wife was drug to the ground in a robbery, mentally maimed for life her ankle permanently messed up. She won't go to anywhere without me there now and they plea-bargained her case. The guy was never charged. Now they want me to go and serve so someone else gets justice. I can't say its gonna happen. I got a hour to come up with a good excuse so when I do I will give it to you, if it don't get me arrested.

From Walt:
I am looking for ways to be selected for juty duty. Honest. I've been called a couple of times but not selected because (I suppose) I was a city firefighter, I am a former car mechanic and well-acquainted with cars, I am a veteran, and I don't believe the police make mistakes, All judgments are paid by the taxpayer or consumer, I pretty much hate everybody and want to cause as much misery as I can. So why can't I be selected?

From Fred Ward:
The easiest way (in Australia anyway) to get out jury duty is to declare you have lost confidence in the courts, and won't be able to concentrate. This clip pretty well sums it up.

This article first appeared in my fanzine, Chip's Closet Cleaner, Issue 9.

Link: Juror's Legal Rights (book)

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