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Friday, March 18, 2011

Should You Try To Avoid Jury Duty?

In July, I was called for jury duty in NYC, for state court. I was dismissed without being questioned.

I work as a contract/consultant. I get paid based on hours billed. If I served on a jury, I would not get paid for the missed work. This gave me a financial incentive to avoid jury duty.

I decided that I was going to try to get out of serving. If necessary, I'd tell the judge that I understand jury nullification. (My mother was concerned that the judge would have me jailed for "contempt of court", if I told him that I knew about jury nullification during voir dire.)

It's a moot point, because I was dismissed without being questioned. Was I planning to do something immoral? Do I have a moral obligation, if it's a "victimless crime", to try to get picked for the jury and nullify? I would want other people to do that, if I were falsely accused of a crime.

Most jurors don't understand jury nullification. I understand jury nullification. I could hand out jury nullification pamphlets in front of a courthouse, but that's a waste of my time and may lead to getting arrested.

If I want to exercise my jury nullification right, I have to wait until I get called for jury duty, hope it's a nullification-relevant trial, and hope I get picked for the jury. Even then, I'd be sacrificing my salary while serving on the jury. Even though I understand jury nullification, the odds are practically zero that I'll get a chance to use it on an actual jury.

If a State employee serves for jury duty, then he gets full salary and benefits while serving. If you're employed in the productive sector of the economy, you usually don't get paid for jury duty. State employees have a financial incentive to serve on a jury. Private sector employees have a financial incentive to avoid serving. This leads to a pro-State bias in jury pools.

In a criminal trial, the prosecutor and judge both work for the State. State employees have an incentive to serve on a jury, leading to a pro-State bias in the jury.

What I should have done was look at the defendant first, while being questioned. If it was a "victimless crime", and the defendant seemed like a decent guy, then I should have tried to get picked and nullified.

There are two conflicting viewpoints.

  1. I should avoid serving on jury duty, because I don't want to lose my paycheck. I should avoid serving on jury duty, because government is evil and I want to have as little to do with it as possible.
  2. I should serve, because I can nullify and keep an innocent person out of jail.
It was interesting, observing the jury room bureaucrats. I was thinking "This is incredibly inefficient. Seriously, people are afraid of this?" Government is extremely inefficient. However, once a prosecutor is focusing his attention on you, then you have a serious problem.

It's interesting to study the economics of jury nullification. I'm giving up approximately $5k while serving. However, the State pays a lot of money to conduct a jury trial farce. It may cost the State $500k-$1M+ to conduct a jury trial farce. If I nullify and hang, I'm costing myself $5k but I'm costing the State $500k-$1M or more. That's attractive odds. Plus, there are limited judicial resources. If the prosecutor re-tries after a hung jury, that means he has to let someone else go. (Some lawyers and public defenders talk defendants into waiving their "speedy trial" rights.)

I should encourage people to refuse to plea bargain. If I serve on a jury and nullify, I'm rewarding someone who refused to plea bargain.

The State doesn't have enough resources to conduct a jury trial farce for everyone. If I hang a jury, the prosecutor won't have the resources to conduct other trials.

Jury nullification has good financial odds. I'm inconveniencing myself a little, while costing the State a lot of money.

There's a contradiction in State justice. State employees lose nothing when serving on a jury. Productive workers give up their salary, while serving on a jury. Productive workers have a financial incentive to avoid jury duty, but they are more likely to question the State.

Should I avoid serving jury duty, to avoid the personal inconvenience and financial loss? Should I serve, nullify, and keep an innocent person out of jail? I'd want others to nullify for me, but my personal incentive is to avoid jury duty. Why should I give up 2-4 weeks of salary to keep an innocent stranger out of jail?

It's a tough choice. Don't blame me. Blame the corrupt system that imposes tough choices on people who seek freedom.


Scott said...

"I decided that I was going to try to get out of serving."

Moron. So this whole blog is all BS then.

Anonymous said...

In the United Kingdom a mother was driving her car. Her baby threw a small sweet wrapper out of the car window.

The local government took the mother to court for throwing away prohibited garbage.

In a pre-trial hearing the mother asked the judge (or magistrate) for a jury trial.

The judge said to the local government prosecutor that there is nothing prohibited about a sweet wrapper.

The judge did not allow it to progress to a jury trial and I think the woman agreed to a conditional discharge.

I think the conditional discharge is some kind of botch. It means you did something wrong but get no punishment.

She should have held out for a jury trial.

But it shows if you push for a jury trial, the system will make the case go away if indeed the case is a stupid one.

Anonymous said...

In the article below, the Crown Prosecution Service is labeled as welfare for lawyers too incompetent to make it in the private sector.

The Daily Mail article covers the case of a Mayor prosecuted for ordering a pizza and suggests it was a police fit up in the sense the police may have lied in their evidence. Total waste of government money.

Anonymous said...

In my country there is no "jury nullification". I strongly suggest that you hang on to that right and if nobody ever uses it, soon there's no one to remind that you even have that kind of a priviledge.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought that working for a bank would give you enough money to have savings. These savings could be used to fund your time on jury service. Bank workers get paid over the odds.

My apologies if you have recently lost your job. I think you said in one post that your contract was only being renewed for another month.

A stable, middle income job is worth more than a high-paying, unstable job.

It is disappointing to learn that our golden boy has feet of clay.

You know what is right, but you do not put your money where your mouth is.

However I cannot really judge you because I might feel the same way as you if I was selected for a long period of jury service.

If you work for yourself making novel products you can spend months researching, designing and producing your products. Once you have a few products you have a stable income. Before then you are living off savings with a small, (or zero) but growing income. A month or two of jury service could severely affect the business.

The trouble is that taxation is over 50% of your income. This makes it difficult to save. Without savings the working man cannot self fund jury service.

FSK said...

My contract was renewed twice. I'm at the same wage slave job at a large financial institution. Actually, I've been there 1.5 years, which is a new record for me.

I was dismissed without being questioned. It's a moot point. I might have been planning to do something unethical, but I didn't get an opportunity.

Also, my boss/headhunter said "FSK, try to get dismissed from jury duty." My obligation to my employer conflicted with my desire to help out an innocent person.

Besides, why should I give up $5k in salary to keep a stranger out of jail.

"Jury nullification" is within-the-system protest. I'm much more interested in outside-the-system protest.

I did feel bad about trying to get out of "jury duty". I considered tainting the jury pool, by explaining jury nullification during voir dire.

Anyway, it's a moot point. I was dismissed without being questioned.

Anonymous said...

>My obligation to my employer
>conflicted with my desire to help
>out an innocent person.

Zorro said "Theft from a thief isn't a crime, it is merely irony."

OK this isn't the case here, but your employer is a bank.

Banks don't make money honestly. Do you really have a greater obligation to a bank than your fellow individual man?

Anonymous said...

You see, the system depends on good-doers. Let us imagine this:

There is a parasite and a worker and these two comprise an economic system.

We know what the parasite does: he sucks the juices out of worker, so that he (the parasite) can have a nice living without having to do any work.

What shall the worker do?

If worker just works as if he had no idea of being exploited, then the system is going to go for a while, until the worker's capital is so undercut, that he is unable to renew his tools, heal himself, and to buy new stock to go on for another day.

If a worker sees the parasite, and just falls on unemployment, then the system will collapse immediately, as the parasite sure as hell isn't stepping up to replace the worker (wealth creator).

If a worker works hard, "trying to do the right thing no matter what", then that would be the exact thing the parasite would hope for!

Conclusion: every evil system depends on enthusiastic wealth creators to try and "pull harder", giving the system one more day to live. The best way to kill a parasite is to do the same thing he does, - stop working, stop producing, do not go out and do what parasites tell you to do to "save the country and it's ways". The reason the country isn't doing so good is because there are the parasites. So, don't be a fool and try to prolong their holidays by helping the system to function.

Make yourself forever inelegible for jury duty. Make it clear that you are just waiting for a chance to use the jury nullification, that you see right through their tricks, that you don't believe their stories confirming their authority, that you would not only judge against the government, but you would make it a public spectacle. Let the system run out of jurors. If you argue that it won't just because you are not there, then you won't help anything if you're here either.
Get on unemployment. Use coupons and food stamps and abuse them. Do everything the government does.

A good economist would have tell us the end of a parasitic system right away, without taking decades to actually try it. This is because he say the exploitation and identified it correctly as misuse of resources. Because he knew the result, he didn't need to try and "pull hard". By starting to act as if you know the end (which you actually do), you make real life closer to the thought experiment in the mind of a great economist.

I say that the conservative party is an evil party, because all they achieve is the extension of a reign of the democratic one, as it patiently negates one of the hundred evil things the democrat party does. Without them, the democrats would have reached the collapse much sooner, and many many lives of innocent workers would not be wasted in the meantime.

I believe this is the only chance we have to see the real America once again instead of the evil fascist empire in our lifetime.

FSK said...

Even though my job is a complete and total waste, I have an obligation to do my best as long as I'm working there.

If they ask me to implement algorithm X, I'll do it, even though it's meaningless.

If my boss asks me "Try to get out of jury duty.", do I have an obligation to follow his instructions?

It actually was amusing. I told my coworkers "All you have to do to get out of jury duty, is say you understand 'jury nullification'." They had never heard of 'jury nullification'. One of them was really interested.

I'd like to help keep an innocent person out of jail. Why should I be forced to sacrifice a month's salary to do so?

Anyway, I was dismissed without being questioned. It didn't matter.

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