Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jury Duty

Yesterday, I received a summons from the Superior Court of California to appear for jury service on a particular day in August 2009.

In India, there is no jury system. Over there, after hearing both sides of the legal argument, a judge decides the outcome of the case. In the USA, the judge does not decide the verdict in the case. In the American legal system, people accused of a crime have the right to a trial by jury – where they can present their case to a jury of their peers. Once the legal arguments end, the jury decides the outcome – GUILTY or NOT GUILTY. If found guilty, the judge gives the sentance.

The names of potential jurors are selected randomly from a list of eligible voters in the same geographic area where the trial will occur . It is the duty of every American citizen to serve as a juror if called upon. Many people find jury duty as a nuisance as it disrupts their daily lives. In many instances, people serve as potential jurors for only one day in court. If you receive a notice to be a juror, you cannot ignore the summons. If you do not show up for jury duty, the court can issue a very heavy fine against you.

If you are called for jury duty, your employer must give you permission to go to court, with pay.

If you wish to be excused from the jury duty, you should inform the court in writing well in advance. Normally, the following excuses are accepted by the courts.

I am not a citizen of the United States.
I am not 18 years old.
I am not a resident of this county (district).
I am a convicted criminal.
I do not have sufficient English knowledge.
I am a police officer.
I am a health care provider.

After you go to court, you may be selected as a juror for the trial or you may be sent back home. Once you are selected as a potential juror, the prosecutor and defense attorney will question you. During this question and answer period is where people give bizarre answers to get out of jury duty. The Prosecution and Defense want impartial jurors so they want to know, through their questions, if you have any biases or pre-conceived opinions that might jeopardize their case. The jurors know this and at times give ridiculous answers to questions so they can be excused from jury duty and go back to their normal lives. Here are some of the responses given in court; which by the way is in front of the judge, prosecution, defense, and other potential jurors.

I hate the police.
I had sex with the accused.
I can tell if a person is guilty by just looking at them.
I am a full time college student.
I am an alcoholic.

There are some people who really like being a juror and serving on a jury.

There was a strange jury selection in 1981 in California. Jerry Brown was California’s Governor. He was asked to come and serve as a juror; remember the selection is always random. He was selected as a juror in a case involving a Yugoslavian immigrant arrested on malicious mischief charges in Sacramento. There was a slight controversy with having Jerry Brown sit on the jury for this case. He was the current Governor of California which means that he has the authority to “pardon” anyone in his State. How can he serve on a jury?

If the panel of jurors thought the defendant was guilty but Jerry Brown did not, they could convict the defendant in court and the next day Jerry Brown can use his authority to pardon the defendant. Gov. Brown assured everyone that the jury’s decision will be final. The jury elected Gov. Brown as the jury foreman (leader). The verdict: Brown voted with the other jurors and found the Yugoslavian immigrant NOT guilty.


  1. Informative blog. Thanks. There was jury system in India. It was abolished in 1959. The last jury trial in India was the case of Commander K. M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra. Nanavati was tried for shooting dead Prem Ahuja, his wife Sylvia’s lover.

  2. A few more I've heard that actually worked:

    Your honor, I can't serve on the jury because I have to pee every 15 minutes.

    Your honor, I can't serve on the jury because the defendant is a doctor and I love all doctors. I think doctors are like God!

    Your honor, the Bible says that God will judge all mankind. Only God can judge a man. I am not God. Who am I to judge another man?

  3. Thanks for the clarification Vivek. You must be a lawyer in India to educate us about this and also about the Nanavati case.

  4. Thanks for this so informative one.
    Imagine if there were jury system in India.

    I can imagine all sorts of weirdness.

  5. Thanks JaGo. What will God do if he/she has to pee every 15 minutes. We will have to wait for our judgement for atleast 15 minutes.

  6. Thanks for your comments Insignia. Vivek said there was a jury system in India until 1959. I understand what your saying. Jury tampering would be very familiar in India. I mean buying juries for a price.

  7. Who Posted This?July 8, 2009 at 11:49 PM

    I believe that trial by jury, for a criminal case, is absolutely awesome in the state of California. However, in the state of Nevada it sucks!

    OJ Simpson

  8. Hey OJ,

    Still looking for the real killers?

  9. Who Posted This?July 9, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    Hey JaGo,

    Yeah, I'm still looking for the real killer.
    I heard he might be in jail already so that's good - most likely in Nevada they say.

    I'm also writing a new book.
    If I DIDN'T Do It - How would my life be?


  10. That was truly informative and interesting. I wonder if we have the jury system installed/reinstalled again in India. I would love to be a part of it.

  11. Thanks JaGo. Thanks Who Posted This. Nice exchange on Orenthal James Simpson.

  12. Thanks for your comments Numerounity. Yes, it is a good idea to reintroduce jury system in India. However, I can imagine what will happen then. Jury tampering will take place. Jurors will be offered lot of money or their families will be threatened. After all, some people sell their votes for Rs.100. Won’t they sell their jury decision for a few lakh rupees?

  13. Wohh that was very well described and imformative too.Well i dont know much about law but you gave me the interest dear .Will keep visiting

  14. Thanks for visiting my blog Shilpa. Please visit me as long as you want to. It will be my honor.

  15. I found this post very informative. i used to wonder who really the members of the jury were. Thanks!