How do you feel when you get that familiar jury summons to appear in court on some future date? Excited? Nervous?
Maybe you're one of those people who simply toss it into the trash?
Ever thought about what would happen in our criminal justice system if every responsible citizen thought they were too busy or too "important" to report for jury duty?
The system would utterly collapse; that's what would happen. Can you imagine what our juries would be like if they were totally made up of citizens who wanted to be on a jury?
When someone who resides in Harris County and who is either a registered voter OR has a Texas driver's license gets summoned for jury duty, the procedure they are required to follow is pretty typical. They are encouraged to visit a Web site where they can read all about what exemptions they can legally use or what might truly disqualify them or how to reset their jury duty if their designated date is not convenient for them.
As a lawyer with enough experience picking juries or should I say, "trying to pretend like I knew what the heck I was doing when I picked juries," let me give you a clue. . . .
There is a really easy way to get out of being picked for a jury by either side's lawyers.
It's called answering the questions. Answering every question. In minute detail. Ad nauseum. Until everyone gets tired of hearing the sound of your voice.
Because the more you talk, the more you increase the odds of being struck by one side or the other, if not both. Remember jury "selection" is not really that at all; no individual juror is selected at all.
In reality, the six or twelve people lucky enough to make the final jury are really "what's left" when all of each side's strikes are gone and their juror numbers happen to be low enough in the panel to make it on the jury.
Why do I say talk and answer the lawyer's questions A LOT? Because a good many years ago when I was a new prosecutor in felony district court and on a day when I was charged with the responsibility of picking a jury in a routine no-big-deal possession of crack cocaine case, I made the big mistake of NOT listening to a lady called down for jury duty.
I selected (which really means that I did not exercise a strike on) a very verbose, very opinionated, but very state's oriented lady on the panel because I was so busy focusing on her answers that I did not listen. Had I listened I would have appreciated that she was SO opinionated and SO strong and SO disagreeable that eleven other people would never be able to stand being in the same small room with her long enough to come to two (guilt AND punishment) independent verdicts!!
But I was young, and can we say naive? The very experienced and wise judge who presided over that trial called it in a heart beat and asked me what I was thinking as soon as all twelve jurors were seated in the jury box. I responded that she gave all "state's oriented" answers to all of the questions put to her. And he sagely replied, "Maybe so, but they will be ready to strangle her before they're done."
And he was right.
Since that day and that trial, which I pretty quickly lost, I have given a name to jurors like that lady with personality traits like hers. I call it the "bow-up" factor.
Bow [Bo] up.
You know. People who "bow up" over any little thing, who are always getting worked up over things that most others would consider petty or insignificant. People who enjoy arguing. Who like to be contrary and difficult.
We all know people like that. If you're one of those kind of people, just let your true colors shine through if you get called down for jury duty. You ought to be safe.
If you aren't one of those people and you want to get OFF of jury duty, then the first step is to keep on talking.