Monday, May 4, 2009

Excuses, excuses

A lot of people seem to freak out when they get called for jury duty. While I don't quite totally get that, I do get some of it. Nothing could seem worse (at the time that you're in the midst of it) to be sitting on a jury, probably next to someone who smells funny, listening to a boring and inarticulate attorney (who you are amazed that they made it through law school, let alone passed the bar exam) attempt to fabricate a justifiable reason as to why his client shouldn't get a speeding ticket. You're completely removed from your normal day-to-day life as you sit there on a hard chair in a little boxed off area (as if you've been identified as probably carriers of the swine flu) with a bunch of other people that you would just rather never have to speak to ever in your life, but definitely never again after the trial is over.

Then there's always deliberations where there is a pretty decent chance you're going to run into the one guy who wants to make everyone's life difficult by either going over the minutiae of the case or by refusing to accept the obvious (either because they're stupid or stoned) and making ridiculous "reasonable doubt" arguments. ("What?! We don't know that he's lying when he says that he can FLY! Maybe he can! Why else would he say that?") Ugh.

And the pay sucks too. I don't know what it is elsewhere, but in California, you're paid a whopping $15 per day, but that doesn't start until the 2nd day. So if you have a one day trial, you're serving your country for free. Actually, you're probably doing it for less than free, as $15 a day is a pay cut for most folks. Oh, and they also pay 34 cents per mile of travel, but only one way. Go figure. I guess they figure that they can pay you to get to the courthouse, but after that, they're not paying you to go anywhere else. I actually find the pittance that California pays out to be rather ironic, as California is in a state of fiscal doom which will realize itself within the next 30 days. The California legislature spends money like drunken sailors on leave (no offense to any drunken sailors out there) in every area where it is possible to spend money (and probably even in some where it isn't possible as well), yet they're forking out what amounts to less than minimum wage for jurors. Nice.

You can get out of jury duty if you have a reasonable excuse. From what I can tell, most things qualify as a reasonable excuse. Financial hardship seems to be the most acceptable. You just tell the judge that you need the money you earn from your real job and that you find $15 a day to be not only a non-living wage, but also rather insulting. OK, you probably better leave off the last part, but you get the idea. Any reason why you can't be there is fine. Anything at all.

Whoops. OK. Anything within REASON.

Take this chap a one Daniel Ellis, who was called for jury duty in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, told the judge that he was unable to serve because "he was homophobic, racist and a habitual liar." Now, I'm sure you're wondering what he said or did exactly, in order to convey that message. Well, for starters, on the questionnaire that he and all other potential jurors had to fill out, he wrote that "he didn't like homosexuals and blacks." That's a little clearer.

Judge Gary Nickerson was not impressed with Mr. Ellis' colorful self disclosure. When he questioned him the conversation went something like this:

"You say on your form that you're not a fan of homosexuals," Nickerson said. (Not a fan! How does one tell if one is "a fan of homosexuals", I wonder? Do homosexual fans have tailgate parties like football fans do?)

"That I'm a racist," Ellis interrupted. "I'm frequently found to be a liar, too. I can't really help it."

"I'm sorry?" Nickerson said.

"I said I'm frequently found to be a liar."

"So, are you lying to me now?" Nickerson asked.

"Well, I don't know. I might be." (Ah-ha! The ol' Catch -22. Or between a rock and a hard place. Wait. Or is it takes one to know one? Hmm....)

"I have the distinct impression that you're intentionally trying to avoid jury service," Nickerson said. (See, that's why he's the judge! They pick up on things like that!)

"That's true."

And that's when the judge had him taken into custody with the intention of charging Mr. Ellis with perjury.

I'm kind of surprised that's all Mr. Ellis had in him, really. It's a commendable performance. Award winning, even. But at some point, wouldn't you just expect him to ask if he would personally get to execute the guy if they found him guilty or something like that? Gotta say, I was a little disappointed he didn't pull something like that.

But it would seem that, while it's bad to be a racist, it's even worse to either not be a racist OR to lie about being a racist. Interesting. I did not see that coming.

Granted, the fabrications of Mr. Ellis were better than those of a one Benjamin Ratliffe of Columbus, Ohio. He tried to get out of jury duty a few years ago "by claiming he is a heroin addict and a killer", according to Apparently, when he filled out his juror questionnaire, he wrote that he had a "bad jonesin' for heroin." When asked if he had ever fired a weapon, he wrote, "Yes. I killed someone with it, of course. Right." " ::: sigh ::: What a moron. Said moron ended up spending the night in jail for contempt of court. Shocking, I know.

But clearly the best (as well as the least advised) excuse tried to get out of jury duty comes from a one Erik Slye of somewhere in Montana. According to the smoky folks over there at
The Smoking Gun, Mr. Slye and his equally brilliant wife, Jennifer, filled out "a notarized affidavit seeking to be excused from serving on a District Court panel in Gallatin County." I believe it was the wording that he used which caused the judge to threaten him with jail. It went something (OK, it went exactly) like this:

"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." Click to enlarge and then Behold!
Wow. How old is his dog that it has wrinkles...there?! Another amazing thing, aside form the age of his dog and the wrinkley-ness of the pooch's nether regions, is that not only did one person think that writing that particular scribe and sending it back was a good idea, TWO people thought it was a good idea! By the way, when he was summoned to court, he apologized for his approach. And the humble approach will get you everywhere as it appears to spare him from going to jail He also avoided being cited for a warrant that he had for failure to appear. And I'm sure that you will be shocked, just shocked, to learn that he did NOT have to serve on a jury.

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grannyann said...

"wrinkles on my dogs balls" I cracked up. I don't see how I could possibly sit on Jury duty because I have to take a well working diuretic pill everyday. How could I tell the Judge that in front of everyone? What a dilema.

Mare said...

You could always phrase it in a more cryptic manner. "I am currently required to ingest a medication which acts as an agent to facillitate the free flowing of bodily fluids continually throughout the day. Therefore, as I am repeatedly required to deplete unneeded reserves, I would be unavailable to sit on a jury for an elongated period of time. And now if you'll excuse me, I believe I am needed in the boardroom. Good day."

~ M