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What are some thoughts on jury duty?

+3 votes
I recently received a jury duty summons, and I'm conflicted as to whether or not I would want to serve on a jury. On the one hand, it could be a good opportunity to sabotage the case and keep someone out of prison. But the other part of me wants to stay as far away from any aspect of the legal system as possible. Any thoughts?
asked Apr 19, 2014 by anonymous

5 Answers

+3 votes
Probably the most rigidly anarchist response would be to refuse to go (and thereby submit to or engage with the state at all), and lots of people do that with little or no consequence. There are certainly other options though.

Years ago I was called to jury duty, and because my job at the time would pay me a full day's wage to go, I figured this was a great excuse to not work and get paid. I did end up being called for selection to be seated on a jury, and I told them during jury selection that I would not ever choose to convict someone as I thought the system itself was criminal, which meant I got to promptly go back to my reading. If my job hadn't paid me though, I wouldn't have bothered going.

At the time I had jury duty, I hadn't even really considered the idea of jury nullification, as a form of sabotage. It is certainly one little monkey wrench in the judicial system, and can be surprisingly effective. You need to make sure to not make any statements that will identify you as doing such, or about your political beliefs, or you will likely be removed from the jury in lieu of an alternate (thus wasting your time). All this assumes you end up being seated on a jury at all, most people I know just end up with two days of real boring time in a court house.

As an aside, at least where I live, jury duty is tied (I think) to voter registration rolls, so if in the future you want to avoid the hassle of being summoned by the state...
answered Apr 19, 2014 by ingrate (20,790 points)
edited Apr 19, 2014 by ingrate
i think now it's related to dmv records, 'cause not enough people were registering to vote. (lol?)
For what its worth:
How they compile the lists for jury duty varies state to state. Some states, like Ohio & Pennsylvania, only use voter registration lists.

However in many states, Washington & California for example, it is linked to voter registration and department of licensing/department of motor vehicles records.

Connecticut goes so far as to create a list using drivers licensing, voter registration, department of revenues list of tax payers, and department of labor's list of folks receiving unemployment.

Some states eliminate duplicate names, however other states don't. In instances of the latter the more lists you are on the more likely you are to be selected. Your name gets in put in the hat, so to speak, for each record you have with them: ie if you are registered to vote and have a valid drivers license/ID card you are twice as likely to be chosen that if you only have a drivers license/ID card.
+1 vote
Jury nullification or get dismissed in voir dire. If you are an anarchist and you answer the attorney honestly you will be asked to leave. I dont know what will happen if you ignore them. If your assessment of the potential consequences of ignoring the notice outweighs the benefits, then you should probably go.
answered Apr 19, 2014 by ImBack (150 points)
+2 votes
Ignoring a jury summons is as risky as not paying your taxes; agents of the state don't take too kindly to folks who don't do what they're told. You may be able to fall between the cracks that exist in every bureaucratic institution, but probably not forever -- especially since they already know who you are and where you live.

Chances are you won't get called to show up. I've been summoned six times in the last dozen years and only made it past the automated phone call once. And I was dismissed at the beginning of the second day of selection. The possibility that it's for a criminal case are about 3 to 1. The possibility of getting through the selection process and being appointed to serve on a jury is minimal. Look at it as an educational experience that's way different from portrayals of the injustice system in popular culture.
answered Apr 19, 2014 by lawrence (13,560 points)
0 votes
When I was young I didn't register to vote and never received a notice.  In my 20's and 30's I played the game and sent in every notice and was never called. Over the next 12 years, I began filing the notices in the circular file. Eventually, I no longer received them - probably due to no longer registering to vote. Somewhere along the way I realized I believed in anarchy, long before I knew the term. I've never served on a jury and never will.

I don't recall having felt any conflict during any of those times in my life.
answered May 24, 2014 by bornagainanarchist (8,110 points)
+2 votes
I've served on a jury twice, once before I started identifying as an anarchist, and once a few months ago. Needless to say, it should be your choice to serve; it's no good that the state coerces people into doing this. Indeed, because of its coercion the state feels free to treat jurors like cattle. On the other hand I, as an anarchist, still chose to serve (I could have easily been excused), and I'll explain why.

Serving on a jury is an incredibly educational experience. You get to see the mechanisms of power from a different angle. The whole time I was there, I was thinking how the cards were stacked against the defendant, even in the face of the supposed institutional counterpower of "due process". It also forced me to think more deeply about how the necessary violence in a society should be mediated. There's no way for a person to be untouched by violence, and to pretend that you can avoid it, or it doesn't exist is not defensible. I was on a rape trial. Violence is completely appropriate against rapists. I still felt terrible, deciding to restrict someone's freedom. I don't want to do that, ever. But I refuse to be a bystander.

People rely on the "justice" system. The shouldn't, of course. They should build alternative institutions that better respect human dignity. But they do, and the jury system is the best part of it, a little corner of relative anarchy that the state has so far been unable to remove. When you choose to sabotage the system, as with any sabotage, it's wise consider whether the human cost is worth it. At least if you're present you can stand up to unjust laws, something the other jurors might be scared to do. Moreover, you can demonstrate your principles to the other jurors. Don't go overboard, but what better platform to advertise your beliefs? In the end, I didn't consider myself so much a traitor to my community as an ambassador to another, and while I disagree with their customs (do I ever), there are still things I can do under the banner of mutual aid.

Don't dismiss the arguments in the other direction either. As always, the choice is yours.
answered Jun 9, 2014 by Geomancer (610 points)