9 Surefire Ways To Get Out Of Jury Duty

First all-woman jury, 1911

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever been called for jury duty, you’ve seen your fellow citizens use every possible excuse to try to wiggle out of their civic duty.But did you ever wonder which excuses actually worked? We wondered that, too.

After you get called for jury duty, lawyers typically question you to see if you’d be a good fit for a particular case in a process called voir dire.

We spoke to professionals around the U.S. who advise attorneys on that process and a few lawyers to find out what kinds of folks lawyers don’t want on their juries.

Not that you want to lie – especially while being questioned under oath – but you might want to play up certain aspects of your personality.

The last people lawyers want on juries are 'experts' on some issue related to the case, or people who think they're experts, according to Amy Singer, a litigation psychologist.

Prospective jurors could also play up the fact that they've already made up their minds about a particular issue, for example, noting they don't believe in large damages awards in civil cases.

In criminal cases, would-be jurors who have family members who work in law enforcement would also be undesirable, litigation consultants said. So don't forget to mention that you have a brother-in-law who's a DEA agent if that's the case!

Tell the judge you're not in a very good place in your life.

People come up with some pretty lame excuses to evade jury duty, said jury consultant Marshall Hennington.

One would-be juror even claimed he had to stay home during the day to make sure his dog didn't bark and bother the old lady next door, according to Hennington.

But just saying you have a lot going on in your personal life and simply can't concentrate could actually convince a lawyer or a judge to choose somebody else.

This excuse could be particularly handy in very complex cases involving scientific issues such as intellectual property or defective products, which would require jurors to be on their 'A' game.

Dig into your personal life for connections to the case.

Lawyers typically want to steer clear of anybody who has personal experiences related to the case, jury experts said.

So, if you're being considered for a jury in a case filed by a woman who slipped and fell, you might want to bring up that time your favourite Aunt Sally took a terrible spill.

Or if two people are going to battle over a car accident, bring up that traumatic smash-up you were in when you were 8, and how upset you were at the people in the car that hit you.

While it might be difficult to share deeply personal information, a diagnosis of mental illness could get you out of the jury box.

Or you could let the court know that you have irritable bowel syndrome and have to run to the bathroom every half-hour, Singer pointed out, noting that 'environmental' sensitivities could be another excuse.

One prospective juror even got out of her civic duty because she was allergic to the fibres in the courtroom carpet.

Be a rebel.

Barring any illness or environmental sensitivities, you might want to try playing up your rebellious nature, according to jury consultant Marshall Hennington.

'I don't like to follow rules. I never follow rules. I have a strong desire not to follow rules,' a prospective juror who wouldn't be chosen might say, according to Hennington.

'I'm a free spirit, I like to play outside the lines, so to speak,' he added, playing the role of disqualified juror, 'so I wouldn't make a very good juror.'

Have a crappy attitude.

Lawyers also wouldn't choose prospective jurors who seem to have a bad attitude right from the start.

'People who come in and just appear to be extremely evasive and they're not sharing enough information -- I would not put those individuals on a panel because again you don't know enough information about them,' jury consultant Marshall Hennington said.

In murder cases, it never hurts to voice your opposition to the death penalty.

Jurors in cases where prosecutors are asking for the death penalty generally must be willing to at least consider that option.

So, vehemently opposing capital punishment is a pretty surefire way to get off those criminal cases.

Play up responsibilities at work.

While it might seem cheap to play up work responsibilities, experts said it never hurts to tell a judge you're the only person at the office who can do your job or you don't get paid for jury duty.

If you're a student, stress that you have classes during the day.

If all else fails, pretend like you really, really want to be on the jury.

A little reverse psychology might help you out in the prospective jury pool.

Jurors who seem overly eager could potentially have an ulterior motive or agenda such as punishing a certain type of criminal. Lawyers generally avoid those would-be jurors.

'Those are the jurors you have to be very, very mindful of because they could severely damage your case,' Hennington said. 'One of the signs is that they want on the panel badly. They smile a lot, they make good eye contact with you, and they give you all the politically correct information.'

But you might want jury duty if there's a famous defendant.

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