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Column for 11.30.11
I’m trying to think how many times over the years I’ve been summoned for jury duty. I’d say 12 times. Add one more time.
The jury summons arrived last week in the mail. There’s no mistaking a jury summons. In the left-hand corner of the summons is the official Seal of New York Unified Court System. In the middle of the envelope in red are the words “Jury Summons-Open Immediately.”
In case someone is tempted to put the summons in File 13, or wherever else they get rid of stuff, this message is in the left hand corner: “Willful disobedience of this summons is a Criminal Contempt of Court and is both punishable by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both.”
For the record, I know of people who have been found guilty of serious crimes who have gotten less severe punishment.
In any event, I am doing as the summons instructs and call a telephone number every night after 5 o’clock to see if my juror number is on the list to report to court the following day.
If my number is up, which is probably a poor choice of words, I’d be happy to do my civic duty. I was happy those other 12 times, too, but something always happened and I was excused.
A few times the opposing sides reached a settlement just before the jury was to be called into the courtroom. A few other times either the defense attorney or the prosecutor didn’t want me on the jury. Twice, both sides wanted me off the jury, maybe because I knew the defendant, the judge, the assistant district attorney and the defense attorney.
Alas, I wouldn’t have minded being on a jury. It’s part of one’s civic responsibilities.
Not everyone, of course, feels that way. For those not wanting to do jury duty, here are some things to say when the prosecutor and defense attorney question potential jurors. There just might be something here that will get you excused:
“I can tell when people are guilty just by looking at them.”
“Laws are for sissies.”
“I get dizzy when I try to weigh evidence.”
“My religion requires me to believe everything a police officer says.”
“I don’t believe my bladder issue should be a problem. I can sit for 30 minutes without having to go. No problem.”
“I’m a retired cop. I know all these punks are guilty as sin.”
“Do I believe in the death penalty? Does a bear poop in the woods?”
“Can each of my personalities go into the jury room with me?”
“I’m not prejudice. I hate everybody.”
“So what if I’m a convicted felon? That just gives me good insight into the legal process.”
“I get claustrophobic sitting next to people like this.”
“Judge, I voted for your opponent in the last election. You were senile then and obviously nothing has changed.”
“I have a short attention span, compulsive behavior and can’t hear well, but other than that I see no reason I can’t serve on a jury.”
“Just so you know, if someone brings a knife to a fight, I bring a gun. If they bring a gun, I bring a bigger gun. Just sayin’.”
“I’m psychic and I can tell you right now whether he’s guilty or innocent.”
“Do I know anybody involved in prosecuting or defending this case? Sure, and they’re all a bunch of crooks.”
“Too bad the cops didn’t shoot him. It would have saved us all this bother.”
“What’s my name? What do I do for a living? Let me think about that for a second.”
So there you have it, a few excuses for people needing them. As for me, if my column doesn’t appear here next week, you’ll know where I am and what I’m doing.