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Analysis posted Jan 09 2012, 4:56 PM Category: Commentary Source: InformationLiberation Print

Tell the Truth, Get Out of Jury Duty

Chris | InformationLiberation

This morning I had to "serve" my country through the involuntary servitude of the jury system. Fortunately, I told the truth during the deliberations and got kicked off the jury as a result.

It all started with the summons a month or so ago, the government only gave me about 4 weeks advance notice. Fortunately, I didn't have a trip planned, as I've heard stories of people being forced to cut their vacations off early because they were drafted to "serve."

I was dreading taking part in this service the whole night, I realized I haven't felt under compulsion to do anything in years, I felt like I was back in school and remembered how servitude felt like, it wasn't pleasant and I tossed and turned stressing out all night.

When I arrived at the building, the place was packed to the brim, numbers 1 to 451 were called to go in, and sure enough there was seemingly 451 people there, I guess everyone can make it when they're under threat of compulsion. Everyone was searched at the entrance to the building, we're being forced to go there, but they must shake us down and make us empty our pockets, classic government.

When I get to the juror lounge I have to check in, the lady in front of me I heard complaining to the government worker at the desk, "I had to do so much to come here," she said looking for some sympathy, she got none. I presented my letter and on I went into a jam-packed room with 7 or 8 large LCD's hanging from the ceiling. I walked to the back of the room looking for a seat, everyone was sitting with a spacer seat in between them so when I made it to the back of the room I had to ask to squeeze in.

The government worker came on the intercom and said "while she knows people are probably a little miffed, we're all here to serve our country, assure a fair trial," etc. etc. It was clear she was just trying to stem some sort of revolt. Finally they play some video, again it starts with some government worker blabbering on and on for several minutes nonsense just to calm everyone down, "we know you might find this an inconvenience, but you're here to serve," blah blah blah. The video stops, the government worker says if anyone has any reason they can't make a 5 day trial or can't serve on a jury form a line, she joked only 5 or so people should get up. Probably 40% of the entire crowd rose to their feet and formed a line 180 people long. Fortunately, I brought an MP3 player, I listened to Peter Schiff's show for 40 minute straight. After the entire line was processed, we were called up to go into the court room.

"Number 132."

I was finally called, I head up to the court with about 100 other people. I was the next to last person to enter the court room, fortunately I happened to be seated at the front in the Juror's chairs which I can only describe as supple. The courtroom is in the shape of a large circle and there's an "all seeing eye" pattern in the circular lights above the court, no doubt to give the impression of respectability.

The judge instructs us the case is an attempted murder case, that means the case will last 3 to 5 days. The defendant was named Alfonso something and he was black, he had a black lawyer who reminded me of Johnnie Cochran, he was dressed very sharp in a nice blue suit. The state's prosecutors were two shrewd older women, they didn't strike me as pleasant to be around.

Eventually the "voir dire" questioning process begins, we're told if any questions apply to you, raise your hand and speak your number. Incidentally, there was a law passed just recently in our county to make all juror's semi-anonymous, you were only IDed by your number and not name, it was rather nice.

"Does anyone have English as their second language and feel it may compromise their ability to judge the case?"

Only one man responded.

The judge asks a few more questions, finally it comes to the magic question, "Would anyone be less likely, or more likely, to trust the testimony of a police officer by merit of his occupation?"

I was the only one to raise my hand.

"132," I nervously forced out.

The other jurors looked at me like I was odd.

After all the questioning was done, I was called up to the stand to explain myself. I walked up and stood with the defendant's lawyer to my left, the two prosecutors on my right, and the judge before me. The judge blared white noise out of a speaker so no one else could hear, he asks me, "So, you said you would be less or more likely to trust someone's testimony because of their occupation?"

"Um... I think the question was about police?"

"Yes, I asked if you would be more or less likely to trust the testimony of a police officer as a result of their occupation."

"Well, I run an alternative news website, and part of it chronicles stories of police abuse. I've seen easily one hundred articles where police perjure themselves on the stand, and they're not charged with perjury after the case is over. I think the incentive structure is out of whack."

"What's your website?!" the state's prosecutor asks.


"And what type of website is it?"

"It's libertarian, there's a section called "Tyranny/Police State" which has thousands of articles of police abuse."

"What's on it?"

"Stuff like police taking people's cell phone cameras."

The prosecutors scribbled this all down hastily.

I'm sent back to my seat.

Sure enough, after a long wait, because my number was one of the first ones, I'm called to be on the jury and take one of the twelve jury seats. The judge says the defendant and the prosecutor can now object if they don't want you on the jury.

First, as far as I recall, was the man who spoke up before because he seemingly did not speak great English, the prosecutor says "Swear him," the defendant and his lawyer talk for a bit, say "Swear him."

Presumably, that means he's on the trial.

I'm second, the defendant's lawyer speaks first this time, "Swear him."

The prosecutors start squabbling amongst themselves, I don't know if it was just for show, but they exchange perhaps thirty words back and forth, I'm thinking to myself, "uh oh, I might actually have to sit through this thing and listen to 10 police officers testify against this guy."

Incidentally, only police were testifying against him, everyone defending the defendant was not a police officer. Judging by the man actually being willing to subject himself to a trial and not take a plea, I'd assume it's likely he's not guilty.

"Thank the Juror and dismiss him," the state's prosecutors say.

"Juror #132, you're free to go," says the judge.

"Aw yeah," I think to myself.

I walk back to the jury waiting room, presumably to be sat on another trial, we were all told we'd be there likely until 4:30, though sometimes it lasts hours longer.

Instead, I arrive and there's a huge line, I see people walking out with checks. My servitude was over, I'm given a $15 check and sent on my way, it was only 12:30.

So there you have it, for those of us who are actually aware of rampant police criminality, escaping jury duty is as simple as telling the truth.

What that means about the pool of jurors who remain, I don't really know. I can't believe out of 100 people I was the only one to say I'd be less likely to trust the testimony of a police officer because of his occupation. Police lie constantly under oath and on the stand, get caught red handed, then face zero repercussions for committing perjury, yet apparently no one in this courtroom besides myself is aware of this.

That's not a good sign.
Chris runs the website, you can read more of his commentary here. Follow infolib on twitter here.

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Comments 1 - 20 of 35 Add Comment Page of 2 >

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 6:03 PM

24226 Maybe, if you realize the level of corruption, you should have kept quiet, got onto the jury, and maybe have helped an innocent man, if that's what you believed, stay out of jail.

Cost to you - 5 days.
Cost to him, if he's innocent but found guilty, the rest of his life.

I hope I'd have taken the risk.

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 6:14 PM

What's the cost of perjuring myself? I didn't want to lie and I didn't. I suggest viewing the excellent movie "The Americanization of Emily," it's on youtube, if you watch it, tell me if it sways your opinion either way.

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 6:33 PM

24226 Trying to put a different thought over.

Your approach just smacked of smug self interest.

Hope I'm mistaken, and, if I am, accept my apologies.

Problem with the printed word is lack of tone of voice and facial expression, which I always find helpful.


Posted: Jan 09 2012, 6:55 PM

24226 By the way, saw the movie a while ago.

Worth the watch.

If you always stand on principle, you'll always be able to say you did.

If, occasionally, you stray from that to help another human being, without harming an innocent party, you can always say you did that, and hope others understand.

Who's right?

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 7:38 PM

Well, I think my approach did have some "smug self interest," so that criticism I would say is fair (and I expected it, I thought about what I would do for weeks). I thought of taking the jury nullification type route, but I've heard many stories of it going wrong. I remember one story where the man who did it ended up being charged criminally himself.

Frankly, I find people "not guilty" every day through this website, I find them not guilty in a court which really matters -- the court of public opinion.

To be clear, I have absolutely no idea whether the man in question was guilty or not, I just said I'd assume it as he didn't take a plea, it's also possible he got bad legal advice or went against it and opted for a state appointed defender, I don't really know.

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 7:43 PM

Also, if it was say, Adam Kokesh or someone on trial for "wiretapping," well... my decision would have been different.

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 7:50 PM

24226 Good to see a website with a decent comments policy - all credit for that, and for an honest exchange of views (imagine such a world!).

I just have the feeling that the danger of your approach might lead you to bring a knife to a gunfight.

I try to be honest at all times, even when it costs me, but sometimes I can crack - and sometimes I HAVE to look out for number one.

Posted: Jan 09 2012, 8:05 PM

Honestly, I'd rather avoid the gunfight altogether :D I really like Harry Browne's book "How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World," in his chapter on "Freedom from Government" he advocates avoiding the state as much as possible, I ascribe to the same view now and find it quite liberating.

Posted: Jan 10 2012, 6:32 AM

11893 You did the right thing. Your web site would have been discovered and used against you. I agree with your opinion about the police, therefore, I would have remained silent and did my job in the best way possible. Keeping in mind that it's in the best interest of police officers to lie, or they will look incompetent.
Charile P.

Posted: Jan 10 2012, 6:44 AM

20934 After sitting through eight hours of jury selection I asked the judge "What happens to people who don't respond to the summons to appear for jury duty"? He said "Nothing. It would be too expensive to chase all those people down and charge them".

Lesson: You can easily get out of Jury "Duty" by not showing up.

I still always attend with the hope that I will get to nullify a drug or tax case.

Posted: Jan 10 2012, 8:31 AM

from a letter in the guardian:
<Genuine libertarians argue that the state exists to defend property and the inequalities in wealth and power it creates.>

that is to suggest the context influences the proceedings, including everyone's perceived roles. i would favour human over banking constructs like 'judge', 'lawyer', 'police' and 'juror'. personally i'd chose human, it has the added benefit of being true.
Dennis in MI

Posted: Jan 10 2012, 9:22 AM

24213 I too would attend, and hope for a chance to nullify something. I figure if these congresscritters have been making laws for 235 years they must be repeating themselves. 1 Constitution and ten commandments should be greater than endless laws, rules, regulations and prohibitions. It is just ridiculous how many cops there are who don't manage to prevent crime. They raise revenue and no longer serve and protect.

Posted: Jan 10 2012, 1:57 PM

24149 "the involuntary servitude of the jury system"

How would you design the jury system differently?

Posted: Jan 10 2012, 3:12 PM

I wouldn't design it differently, I think courts should be 'denationalized' the same as every other industry or service the government claims a monopoly on providing.

Just google "private courts" or search youtube for videos on it.

There's an endless amount of ways private judicial systems could operate, it should be up to individuals in the market to decide which service they feel provides them with the most value, just as they choose who will cut their hair or where to buy their groceries, people should be allowed to pick what type of justice system they want to take part in.

If this sounds crazy to you, saying to people in the soviet union they should try free market capitalism also sounded equally crazy, we're under a soviet type system when it comes to law making, courts, police, military, the production of currency, and every other service the government nationalized.

Just read about the flourishing system of private courts which most business already use, governments are generally against them but all the companies use them anyway because they're cheaper, faster and produce better rulings.

If it helps to imagine it, think of the government nationalizing the production of milk. Do you think the government would provide better quality milk at a lower price and with more variety? Do you think consumers of the government produced milk would be satisfied with their service?

Every "service" the government provides is in the same boat.

Posted: Jan 11 2012, 11:57 AM

24149 I think private courts are sometimes a viable option for civil cases, but I don't understand how that system would work well for criminal cases. Personally, I don't feel that hairstylists (or milk) and murder trials are interchangeable concepts.

You say we are under a Soviet-style system of state-based law, police, military, etc, but isn't basically every single nation on Earth? It's like calling our cars Soviet-style because they have four wheels.

You hold up private courts (arbitration) used by corporations as a good example. The "better rulings" you cite as a positive I see as a negative. Arbitration seems to allow the more powerful entity (the corporation) to set up a favorable scenario for themselves to the detriment of the less powerful entity (consumers). Justice should be fair and equal, and from what I've read arbitration lets the powerful tilt the system in their favor. This is not to say the state-run justice system is by any means perfect, but for many types of disputes I see arbitration as being less just.

Do you have any links or brief description of how a private justice system would deal with something like a murder trial? All of what I quickly found on Google was related to divorce and other civil matters.

Posted: Jan 11 2012, 12:01 PM

24149 The only alternative to a compulsory jury system would be a volunteer one, yes? IMO, a volunteer-based decision-making system yields far more biased results than a random one like our jury system.

Posted: Jan 11 2012, 2:15 PM

Well, like with any consumer good or service the service has to actually serve consumers, if the private courts were just some scam to favor the powerful no one would take part in them. Generally, most companies, the biggest ones at least, tailor all their products to the masses, think of how many companies there are which serve the masses wants and needs vs the market for luxury goods to serve the rich, the later pales in comparison.

I think this article from Stefan Molyneux is pretty good, of course, everything is just people's musing and guesses, there's no way to know exactly what form any of these things would take. The idea is to start from a position of moral justness, IE no one is being forced to do anything, then imagine how people would voluntarily organize themselves in a free society, what type of services would they want to deal with these problems in society. The idea is not what sort of system would be imposed top down on unwilling subjects (as is done with states).

Here, check it out:

"Caging the Devils: The Stateless Society and Violent Crime"

Posted: Jan 12 2012, 1:19 AM

67212 Thanks.

Honestly, that society sounds just as bad as the one we have now.
Topiary's Astral Projection

Posted: Jan 12 2012, 7:39 AM

76121 Thanks for sharing Chris. Good story and good replies.

I just ignore my jury summons but your way gets the truth out there.

You probably provided the other potential jurors with an anecdote which will no doubt be exaggerated "This guy that was there straight up told the judge that cops are lying pussies that deserve to bathe in the sputum of their victims!"

Posted: Jan 30 2013, 11:02 PM

24223 I just got summoned today. It really ticked me off. I'm not sure how I'll get out of it or even if I'll get out of it. Worst case scenario I'll mention Jury Nullification. Or if the trial is worth jurying maybe I'll even get a chance to use Jury Nullification. I doubt either of those will happen. I'll probably either chicken out and comply or weasel my way out of it in a more subtle way.
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