Dear Susan Vaughan,
You are hereby notified that you have been drawn to serve as a Traverse Juror in the Superior Court and/or Unified Criminal Docket. You are required to appear on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 AT 8:30 AM at 62 Union Street, Rockland, ME.
Yes, I’ve been called to jury duty. Traverse Jury is a trial jury for either criminal or civil cases. This is my third time, but I’ve yet to be chosen for a jury. I’m ambivalent. While the experience would be great research for a writer of suspense and mystery, it’s just before Christmas, when there’s so much else going on. Not that holiday shopping is a valid excuse to get out of jury duty.
The idea prompted me to investigate the issue of excuses. Certainly there are legitimate excuses, such as illness, a mother taking care of an infant, financial hardship, or students who can’t miss classes. One blog, which I won’t name, offered advice on ways to get out of serving on a particular jury. Some were disqualifiers the attorneys would see as legitimate, such as having a brother-in-law who’s a DEA agent or having had an experience similar to the one in that case. Others, not so much—acting way too eager to serve or being an expert on the issue.
Some people have used creative excuses that haven’t let them off the jury hook. A couple of newspaper blogs listed these: A woman who couldn’t report because she couldn’t leave her dog at home; he’d bark all day and disturb the neighbors. A man who said they wouldn’t want him because he was “way too opinionated.” Another who called and said he couldn’t serve because he was blind. He couldn’t have someone fill out the form for him because his friends “could read but none of them could write.”
And … “I have a lot going on in my personal life and just can’t concentrate.”
The pièce de résistance: A woman who claimed she’d been a murder victim herself and couldn’t sit in judgment on a homicide case. Well, yes, she’d “gotten better, but still…”
Back to legitimate excuses, here’s an obviously disqualifying one. In Boston, a few years ago, Sal Esposito was called to jury duty. Only one problem—Sal is a cat. On the 2010 census, Sal’s owners had listed him as a member of the household. After they recovered from their shock, they filed the form to have Sal disqualified on th grounds “he is unable to speak and understand English.” They even included a letter from the veterinarian. The court rejected the request. A less than full command of English was not a valid excuse, the rejection said. I could find no information on whether Sal ever reported to court. His verdict: Meow.
Does anyone have advice for me about jury duty?