5 Things That Might Get You Out of Jury Duty

By: Wade Knoxville

Jury duty is almost universally despised in America. The notices informing us that it's time to serve are met with moans and groans, pleas to reschedule, and dread in the days leading up. Amidst all this, people are constantly looking for ways to evade serving. And while it's arguably unpatriotic to shirk this civic duty, it's worth examining this from a strictly educational point of view. Why are some people picked by the defense and prosecuting attorneys to service on juries while others aren't? Aside from ridiculous and outrageous strategies (like pretending to be a racist when the person being tried is a minority), what are some things that make people unattractive for jury service? Here are five:

1) Having an active-minded or research-oriented career

One of the things prospective jurors are asked is whether they can make judgments based solely on the facts and evidence presented in court. They are admonished not to base their opinions on anything other than those things - no conducting personal investigations or fact-finding outside of court. If either attorney feels that you will not abide by that rule, you will not be chosen. This helps explain why people in active-minded or research-oriented careers (such as freelance writers, journalists, or other lawyers) are rarely chosen as jurors. Both the prosecuting and defense attorneys assume these people will be unable to stifle their natural, investigative urges, and simply refuse to select them for the jury.

2) Living near the scene of the crime

Another trait that is desired in jurors is impartiality. The court needs to know that you will judge both parties fairly and with as little bias as possible. Almost immediately, this rules out people who live very close to the scene of the crime. By definition, these people have many preconceptions and biases about that area and the people there - possibly even the suspects in the crime. For this reason, such people are rarely chosen for jury service.

3) Being or appearing to be very busy

Jurors need to be able to devote significant time, focus, and mental energy to weighing the various arguments presented in court. This makes senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, and seasonally unemployed workers excellent choices for jury service. It also makes full-time college students, small business owners, and international businessmen poor choices for jury service. If you are in the latter group, you will still have to appear for jury duty, but it is highly unlikely you will be chosen for a jury if you reveal how busy you are when the attorneys question you.

4) Having or appearing to have mental/emotional problems

Jurors are required to be mentally and emotionally sound for obvious reasons. Imbalances in either area could severely impact a juror's ability to impartially judge the case or even process the arguments being presented. For this reason, people who appear to be short-tempered, easily irritable, or otherwise emotionally unsound are rarely chosen for jury service. It is assumed by both attorneys that such people are unfit to serve and would be detrimental to the rendering of a proper verdict.

5) Having been the victim of (or knowing someone who has been the victim of) the crime in question

One of the first questions you will be asked as a potential juror is whether you have been the victim of the crime in question. (For example, if someone is being tried for sexual assault, you will be ask if you have ever been sexually assaulted.) You will also be asked if anyone you know has been the victim of the crime in question. If the answer to either question is yes, you will not be chosen to serve on the jury. Neither attorney will trust that you put your past aside during the case and you will in all likelihood be instantly dismissed from the courtroom.

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Wade Knoxville

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