Disclaimer: This post is part of this blog’s That Tiny Tirade series. It can (and likely will) contain harsh language, scenes and storylines not suitable for children, and not safe for Washington logic. This post may also contain strobe lighting effects.
Last August, I received a jury summons for the first time. As someone who has not been to a courthouse since his parents’ divorce1Which occurred just over 20 years ago., it’s a bit of an intimidating experience to receive a jury summons. After all, as anyone who watches Sherlock knows, being on a jury is just a way for a criminal mastermind to get inside your head by making death threats to the ones you love via the hotel’s television system.
Putting aside the actual jury duty experience for a moment (we’ll come back to that in a separate post), everything I read on the internet and heard from other people lead me to believe that jury duty was the single most boring experience possible in human existence. Yes, the general consensus was that jury duty is more boring than watching paint dry, viewing a lawn growing, reading any religious textbook, or watching a baseball game. I frankly couldn’t believe it. While jurors get paid well below minimum wage2Our $20 per day salary works out to being roughly $2.85 per hour…if the Ohio minimum wage law were actually followed, jurors would be compensated $55.65 for a 7 hour day, $39.75 if you exclude the nearly two-hour lunch given if you’re waiting., there’s no reason for me believe that even waiting to be selected for jury duty would be more boring than a baseball game.
I was right. Granted, I do have a strong, selective bias towards the relative stupidity and boring nature of baseball3I enjoyed baseball once. But then I turned 10., however the people watching while waiting for jury duty is beyond interesting. It’s like watching an episode of Big Brother, only instead of people trying to backstab one another to win a game, I get treated to a show of people trying their damnedest to get out of serving on a jury.
Now, it’s important to remember that in Ohio, most jury summons last at least 5 days. If you’re not selected to be put on a case on day 1, that does not mean you can go home. Likewise, just because you’re dismissed from a specific case doesn’t mean you can go home either. What it does mean is that you get to go back down to a giant waiting room and wait for your name to be called to go serve on a different jury.
Yet, despite this, there were people in the jury room who were bragging about the in-courtroom shenanigans they pulled to get dismissed from a case. One gentleman actually said the following.
“Unless I’m on the jury for a murder case, I don’t want to be here. I’ve been called up three times this morning and I keep telling them it’s against my religion to pass judgement on someone. But the second I get a murder case. Boom. Not religious anymore.”
Let’s break that down for a second, shall we? How old do you think the man making that statement was? 20? 25? 30? Try late 40s or early 50s (he said he graduated college in the mid 80s, though he didn’t say what year). This was also the gentleman’s first time being called for jury service, so it’s not as if he had previous practice with these shenanigans.
There’s one specific part of his plan that annoyed me just a touch — the fact that he was using religious beliefs to get off of cases he didn’t want to be on. It doesn’t bother me if someone has an actual religious conviction that prevents them from passing judgement on others. While I see that as a bit incredulous and unlikely, if those are your beliefs, they’re your beliefs. I also have no issue with the court system wishing to respect the religious beliefs of someone by allowing them to not be on a jury because of religion. While it could be argued that’s a failure to separate church and state, I argue it’s the perfect separation of church and state, by allowing a religious person the option to not be part of a state process.
The premise of faking having religious convictions to get out of doing something just baffles the hell out of me. It’s not as though I haven’t seen this before, albeit as a result of online dating back in the day. Yet, I never figured I’d see it play out in the court of law.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Christmas is a pseudo-religious holiday that’s actually a part of American culture OR it’s a pseudo-cultural holiday that is firmly Christian. How you view the holiday says a lot about you, and in turn, about how you view society. Neither way is wrong — that is, unless you exploit people’s religious beliefs for your own gain.
…not that such a thing would ever happen in the world today or anything.
Front page image credit: Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons License.