A few years ago I was called to fulfill my civic duty and participate in the jury selection process courtesy of the Los Angeles County Court System. My summons corresponded with my registering as a voter in Los Angeles which kind of sucked. So as in my nature I was paranoid that I’d be caught red-handed and severely punished if I tried to get out of it. That was my first mistake because not only was I summoned, I was called up for a jury pool and subsequently placed on a trial which quickly deteriorated into the most ridiculous court event of the year.
The defendant was on trial for assault, battery and assault with a deadly weapon. The trial was supposed to last 3 days but in an unbelievable display of incompetence by the LA District Attorney’s office and the court-appointed translators 3 days became 10 days. Every second was pure agony – especially being quiet in the jury box when all you want to do is scream, we get the f-ing picture! Move onto the next point! I don’t have all day here! But yes, you do.
If I had a buck for every time the judge said, well this has never happened in my courtroom before, I would’ve come out a lot richer than the $15/day fee I was paid to participate in the justice system.
A few reasons why this trial was so horrendous:
1. LA DA used it as a “practice session” for a barely-literate attorney who never tried a case before and could barely form a sentence. I don’t know what language he was speaking but it certainly wasn’t one I’ve ever heard before. The main prosecuting attorney skipped court halfway through to go on vacation, leaving the outcome in the hands of this buffoon.
2. Every day started off with at least 2 hours of waiting around doing nothing as the courthouse was a smaller one in the area (our pool was reassigned to it, the first sign of bad things to come – particularly since it was Juror Appreciation Week at the main courthouse and we missed free doughnuts, a trivia contest and a presentation by a K9 cop) and thus didn’t have secretaries to take care of administrative business. Thus the judges had to do it themselves while we waited around watching Judge Judy in the jury holding room. We would finally start the trial and then break 1 hour later for a 2 hour lunch.
3. Egregious use of court translators. Okay, I understand that if you take the stand are not 100% English-literate, you should have a translator to help you in the process. The problem arises when the witness is 95% English-literate but is forced to answer in his designated language and is upset because the translator is mis-translating his statements. Heaven forbid you have a translator specializing in a remote pacific island tribal language that can only make it to court two days a week to translate for the main witness.
3 + 1 = why it took 1 1/2 days to get the bottom of whether the vehicle made an “EEE” sound or a “VROOM VROOM” sound as it sped out of the parking lot. The best part was watching the judge yell at the attorney and intervene in the examination. He was as pissed as we were.
I really could go on and on and on about the horrible parts of the trial but I will say this… during the jury selection process it was very easy to see before even meeting the judge and the attorneys who was going to be selected for the jury box. Clue: If you’re normal behaving and don’t have a good excuse ready, you are going in that box. I never thought I’d be actually placed because I had a high juror number… but there were way too many slick people before me that worked the system and got themselves thrown out of court. Therefore I now give you my list of the Best Ways to Avoid Jury Duty, assuming that you’re a sucker like I was and showed up.
Best Ways to Avoid Jury Duty
1. Traumatized Victim. If you are on a trial involving a violent crime, you will be asked to answer Force of Violence questions (i.e. have you, your friends, your family ever been a victim of a violent crime.) Use this to your advantage. The judge will make you feel like a schmuck and try to strong arm you into saying that you can be fair. Just a heads up, there’s no shame in using your past victimization to your advantage. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking about your past experience in front of the whole courtroom, you can ask to speak to the judge in chambers.
2. LAPD Hater. If a key witness in the trial is a member of the LAPD you will be asked if you can keep an open mind about their character. Who hasn’t had a bad experience with the LAPD? Can you use that experience to make sweeping generalizations about the entire police force? This is also an angle to investigate.
3. Phony Racist. I don’t recommend this but I did see someone effectively utilize this technique. The major downfall besides the obvious is that what you say in court becomes PUBLIC RECORD. If you are or ever plan to be in the public eye, you are going to be screwed if you use this technique. I saw a wannabe actress get herself kicked out of the box for claiming to be a racist and all I can say is that if she ever “makes it”, I am so selling this bit of information to Star.
4. Mal-adjusted Outcast. Wear a Star Wars T-shirt. Be in severe need of a haircut. Play a Game Boy and refuse to socialize with the other jurors. Stumble into court late. When asked in the juror questioning where you are employed say, “I’ve never had a job.”
5. Non-Citizen. By far the most effective technique I’ve seen. During pre-questioning when you answer as to where you live, say, “I live in Mexico.”
6. English Illiterate. Explain to the judge that you don’t know enough English to be able to properly follow the trial. Short and sweet.
7. Bladder Control Problem. Particularly effective if you’re old. Wander out of the jury box mid-questioning without telling the bailiff that you’re hitting the restroom. They will catch you before you reach the exit and you will be eventually “auf-d” upon agreement by both attorneys.
8. Too Chatty. Answer all questions in a normal manner. Throw in at the end that you have a problem keeping your mouth shut out of the courtroom and will probably blab about the trial to your family and friends. The judge will warn you that you will be in contempt and go to jail but the attorneys don’t want a mistrial so they will both agree that you don’t belong in the box. See ya!
9. Executive. In some cases if you are dressed like a high-powered white businessman, drive a Mercedes and don’t follow the court designated parking lot rules, you will get removed from the jury box.
10. Butcher. I haven’t seen this one in action but apparently if you are a butcher and are in the jury pool for a violent crimes case, the attorneys will kick you out of the box because blood and gore are desensitized parts of your everyday life.