Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Your Dog Won't Get You Out of Jury Duty (unfortunately)

by Laura James


About 15 or so years ago, many states in the United States moved from voter registration to driver's licenses to choose jury pools. This decision has had terrible consequences for the criminal and civil courts. The worst: the quality of the average jury has plummeted.

It was an understantable move. In the interests of increasing racial diversity in jury pools, driver's licenses were seen as a way to broaden the pool.

But in doing so, they picked up every felon who isn't eligible to vote -- and every citizen (and non-citizen) who cares so little about current affairs that they don't bother to register. People who lack enough interest in government to cast a ballot get to cast ballots in murder cases. Go figure.

If you ever find yourself puzzled over some high-profile verdict, if you ever find yourself wondering about the quality of the average jury today, well, here may lie part of the answer.

It's very, very unfortunate. Yet the decision will probably never be reversed.

On the other hand, the excuses for getting out of jury duty may have gotten more creative since the switch. This gem recently emerged from the courts of Montana. It's an affidavit completed by someone chosen for jury duty who didn't want to serve -- and the resulting court order by a teed-off judge, and it's making the legal rounds of lawyers these days via email.

In it, a fellow declares: "Apparently you morons didn't understand me the first time. I CANNOT take time off from work. I'm not putting my familys well being at stake to participate in this crap. I don't believe in our "justice" system and I don't want to have a goddam thing to do with it. Jury duty is a complete waste of time. I would rather count the wrinkles on my dogs balls than sit on a jury. Get it through your thick skulls. Leave me the f**k alone."


And the resulting court order read as follows:



CITATION FOR CONTEMPT
THE FREEDOM AND LIBERTY THAT MR SLYE ENJOYS DEPENDS UPON THE VOLUNTARY SERVICE OF JURY DUTY, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT ERIC SLYE BE AND REMAIN IN THE COUNTY JAIL FOR 20 DAYS OR UNTIL HE RECANTS HIS CONTEMPTUOUS CONDUCT IN OPEN COURT. MR. SLYE'S FAMILY MAY VISIT HIM ON WEEKENDS BUT HIS DOG SHALL STAY AT HOME UNMOLESTED BY THE DEFENDANT.

10 comments:

LadySheila said...

Unfortunately, I've seem this attitude in SO MANY people. Funny that one would think that they could win against a judge. Where is good respect for the law taught these days? It's as ridiculous as an ant telling the bulldozer "You can't take me down"! The judge aptly proved his superior intelligence, wit and power. Maybe that'll teach him and others good citizenship. Outstanding!!

LadySheila said...

And oh, Ms. James, great post! The title was awesome...I will be reading your work! Thanks again.

cheryl said...

I'm a bit of two minds about this post.

On the one hand, it's a real shame that more people aren't willing to do their civic duty, yes duty to serve on a jury.

On the other hand, would you actually want a potential juror like Mr. Slye to be judging you or anyone else?

Like you said, ever since they went the driver's license route, juries have gone down hill. We see it every day.

Leah said...

People like him shouldn't be allowed to sit on a jury and if that is truly how he feels I hope he doesn't recant. Jury duty isn't for everybody.

Anonymous said...

I applaud Mr. Slye for being honest. I have sat on jury duty twice, because I felt it was my responsibility as a citizen. I would sooner gouge out my own eyeballs with a stick. The problem with jury duty is not that it is an inconvenience or a financial burden (not for me, at least) -- it is that I know the process is going to take 3x as long as it should because the lawyers and judge assume that we
( the jury ) are mentally retarded and spend HOURS going over the exact same points over and over and over again. It is excruciating.

If I am ever called again, I'll break my own legs to avoid it, if I have to.

cheryl said...

I used to live in Elmira NY. I received jury duty notices every 6 months. I only had to report twice, but both times I was asked if I was a college graduate. I said yes, and I was dismissed both times.

Cheryl said...

I have never been called and hope like hell I never am. Not because I don't want to do my "civic duty" though. I'm simply afraid I will fall asleep if it ends up being something long and drawn out!!

FleaStiff said...

The real problem is that the average citizen's worst ordeals are those experienced at the Motor Vehicle Burea and the local Courthouse.
I quite frankly do not want to ride a bus, associate with the unwashed veniremen, deal with rude clerks, go through metal detectors and rude rent-a-cop ordeals, deal with pompous rude judges or arrogant prosecutors. And while I can't stop some jerk from going out and looking at my car to see what bumper stickers I have on it I sure ain't gonna tell him what they are! With courtroom trials now being rather similar to contrived confrontational TV shows, what sensible person would want to be a juror.

Perhaps you could obtain the contemnant's FIRST response to the jury summons and find out why it was ignored?

Soobs said...

"BUT HIS DOG SHALL STAY AT HOME UNMOLESTED BY THE DEFENDANT. "

OMG....definitely spew-worthy! Recently, I was called to jury duty for the first time (I am 43.) I sat there almost the entire first day, and wasn't called into a "pool." Fortunately, I was released for good. I could be called again, probably in about 5 years. I'm afraid that even if I make it into the "pool" I won't be picked, as I actually read the newspapers, and sometimes, form an opinion that I would NOT be able to change (few cases, but some definite ones, for sure.) Having said that, I have sat with others who were called, and it truly does frighten me that some of those people were making what could amount to virtual life and death decisions.

Frankly, if you don't care enough to register to vote, then you aren't MY "peer" and shouldn't be on MY jury.

Roci said...

Fleastiff,
..what sensible person would want to be a juror.

While no sensible person would want to serve on a jury, the presence of sensible people on the jury are the innicent person's best chance of acquittal. The criminal justice cannot work without sensible people on the jury. The most egregious examples of bad jury verdicts can be laid to the feet of non-sensical jurors (Remember OJ?)