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HOW TO GET OUT OF JURY DUTY

[Disclaimer: Jury duty is a service we owe our fellow citizens. It is a critical community responsibility. That said. If you really absolutely can’t. This instructional allows you to make an alternative civic contribution.]
 
Here’s how to get out of jury duty. GUARANTEED to work. I just did it and you can too, without getting into trouble, without feeling like you’re not being a responsible member of society, and while providing a laudable service to other prospective jurors in the courtroom, not least of all to the defendant.

Please note: This doesn’t work for civil trials. To get yourself out of adjudicating a civil dispute you need a pressing previous engagement. For criminal cases, this single spoken line will make defense attorneys love you but more to the point, city prosecutors will immediately wipe you from the list and hope you never show up to pee in their jury pool again.

I’m talking about being an apostle for “jury nullification”. That’s two words, and they’re fully legal. But please, please, do explain them or you really will be copping out. You have a constitutionally guaranteed right to talk about jury nullification. And where better than in front of prospective jurors about to take responsibility for a defendant’s fate?

Here’s how it works. Every jury selection involves “voir dire”, where attorneys question potential jurors to weed out difficult ones. During every voir dire the prosecution will ask “Is there anyone here who cannot follow what the judge instructs you to do?”

Take a deep breath, raise your hand, that’s your cue.

The prosecutor will likely elaborate, to pretend you may have misheard. “Does anyone think they don’t have to reach a verdict based on the judge’s expert instructions?”

The prosecutor may have already explained that jurors are often surprised to find their own interpretation of the law at odds with that of the judge. Regardless of personal feelings, the prosecutor will insist, jurors must weigh the evidence according to the law AS INSTRUCTED.

Your hand is still raised. You answer:

“Not really. The legal principle of jury nullification holds that it’s a citizen’s responsibility to consider their conscience in whether or not a law is applied or how it is applied.”

A foolish prosecutor will ask you to explain, and you can.

“Jury Nullification is the only way that people have changed repressive laws in this country. The decision to discard unfair or abusive laws is made by juries who refuse to enforce them. Jurors, for example, who came to feel that maybe it shouldn’t be illegal for slaves to run away from slave owners.”

At this point you are essentially contaminating the jury with a very subversive idea. Though you’ll be eliminated, the concept will hang in the back of the other jurors’ heads. If the prosecutor wants to hear more, or wants to debate, let them have it.

“The constitution guarantees us all the right to a trial by a jury of our peers. Not a jury composed of judges. Of peers. That’s us. Common citizens, like the defendant. A jury of peers are meant to provide parity against an abusive justice system or government.”

Very likely the jury orientation video or presentation in the jury assembly room will have mentioned that Thomas Jefferson considered the right to be a juror more valuable than the right to vote. You can invoke their own propaganda.

“If Thomas Jefferson valued the individual power of a juror over the power to vote in elections, you can bet he was talking about more than just walking into a jury box, doing what the judge told you, and walking out.”

At this point a prosecuting attorney might try to ostracize you by asking “does anyone else agree with this person?” Most will submissively shake their heads and frown, but quick thinking prospects will raise their hands too. If they do, and if they have grasped what you are saying, they too will be excused. You have essentially offered everyone the chance to escape this jury if they want to.

At worse, the slower thinkers will revisit your words as they spend the next hours and days getting to know the defendant. Very likely the prosecutor will be up at the bench, motioning for a fresh pool of jurors.

There is of course more you can say. You need only respond to what is asked, so as not to look like you’re being deliberate. Relax, the defense team will have their turn and they are CERTAIN to revisit the subject you’ve raised. The judge might prevent them from letting you ramble on, but make the most of it until that happens.

“Pot laws had to be relaxed when juries stopped convicting smokers of what they considered to be victimless crimes. Judges didn’t do that. Juries did.”

“And think about it: should poor people really be prosecuted if they have to shoplift food to feed themselves? Shouldn’t that be for a jury of poor people to decide?”

“And what if you realize that our prisons and jails are too full, and certainly too full of a disproportionate number of people of color? If police and judges are going to keep targeting certain people for convictions, how will we ever empty the jails? Thoughtful jurors can do it!”

“And the joy if it is, it only takes one juror on the jury to stand up for the defendant. Guilty verdicts require a unanimous vote. Just one juror can deprive the state of a conviction. That one juror who saves the defendant’s neck can be YOU!”

Don’t feel bad if the defense attorney doesn’t exploit you as much as you’d like. Keep in mind the defense attorney is incurring the wrath of the judge the longer you go on.

All US lawyers are forbidden to talk about jury nullification unless the subject comes up. Of course a defense attorney cannot ask a jury to disregard the law, but once you’ve brought up the legal concept, it’s their golden opportunity to kick the idea around.

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