Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Bailing on Jury Duty: A Crime or Self-Defense?

Filed under: Living with a disability, Motivation — by Glenda at 5:48 pm on Monday, June 1, 2009

This morning I was supposed to appear for jury duty at BC Supreme Court in New Westminster. To be honest, I have been waiting years for the opportunity to serve on a jury. Since taking Law 11 in high school, I had an interest in the legal system. A tiny piece of me desired to be a lawyer; the rest of me pointed out how much work that tiny piece would have to do. Serving on a jury would provide me one perspective of the legal system.

However, after much deliberation, I chose to play my “physical infirmity incompatible with the discharge of the duties of a juror” card. Did I take the easy route out? Quite possibly. Do I feel guilty about it? No, not overly.

The past few months, particularly May, have been extremely busy for me. I am hoping I can fulfill my next two commitments before breaking! I definitely don’t need to add jury duty.

Proving I can do something is one thing; saying “No, thanks” when my plate is overflowing is something else, yet can be equally empowering. Because when one door opens, it doesn’t necessarily means passing through is a must. Sometimes walking on by is fine.

Besides, being summons to criminal court, I envisioned serving on a jury for one of the many gang-related murders. With my red scooter sticking out in a crowd, would that make me an easy target? I can do without that kind of drama in my life!

If accused individuals can use mental insanity to shirk responsibility, should the innocent be able to gracefully bow out of commitments for mental (and physical) health’s sake without fear of any retribution, perceived or otherwise? What say you?

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Suzie Cheel

June 1, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

Absolutely,

My only excursion into jury duty had me sitting around all day and not being selected.

I think you are so right about how obvious you would be it it was a gangland trial, lots of those in BC?Looked too nice for that:)

hugs
Suzie

Comment by Glenda

June 1, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

Suzie, yes, unfortunately there have been several gang murders in recent months – one Mom was shot in her car with her four year old son in the backseat. Scary. I tell Darrell to duck when he goes out.

Comment by Kat Nagel

June 1, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

While I theoretically have a condition that would qualify (at least, here in New York State/USA), I haven’t played that card yet. Why? Because, here, it would permanently remove me from the list of potential jurors. Instead, when I’m inhumanly busy or my RA is flaring, I use the ’small business owner’ exemption (may not be available in all jurisdictions). It allows the self-employed to postpone jury duty by up to months by specifying a date when we’d be better able to serve. So far, it’s worked well for me.

Comment by Glenda

June 1, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

Good point, Kat. I don’t recall that being an option on the form. What was your jury experience like?

Comment by Avril

June 1, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

Glenda, I know you deliberated carefully before making your decision, and I say ‘good for you’ for knowing where to draw the line. We have a tendency nowadays to pile more and more onto our plates and then wonder why our lives are out of balance (at best) or why we get stressed and sick. I so agree with you that sometimes the most empowering thing we can do is to say ‘no’.

Comment by Marina Martin

June 2, 2009 @ 12:34 am

While I respect your right to make your own decisions, jury duty is not just another commitment. Many times, people’s lives and futures are at stake. Everyone shirks it, and that means that the least-qualified people end up as jurors. Whenever I have served, I’ve been appalled at how my fellow jurors could not follow directions or use logic. I hope that you are never falsely accused of a crime and have to appear before a panel of not-your-peers because they all had other commitments.

Comment by Maritzia

June 2, 2009 @ 7:35 am

Glenda, I have to say that I’m quite surprised to hear you say something like “If accused individuals can use mental insanity to shirk responsibility, “. While some criminals might falsely try to use mental illness as a way to get out of responsibility for their actions, there are also those who are truly mentally ill who are truly not responsible for those actions. Would you have someone who is developmentally disabled go to prison for life (or even the the death chamber here in the US) because they weren’t able to reason out consequences to actions? Would you sentence a schizophrenic to life or even death because they have a mental illness?

As a disability advocate yourself, I’m surprised that you would make a statement that seems to make light of the legal protections in place for the mentally ill.

Comment by David Hucklesby

June 2, 2009 @ 9:29 am

Burn yourself out and then nothing gets done. I’d say you made a wise choice.

Comment by Christine

June 2, 2009 @ 10:31 am

hmm…. Glenda… I believe you must, first and foremost, take care of yourself – which you’ve done & good for you!

To Maritzia who commented “there are also those who are truly mentally ill who are truly not responsible for those actions”, I respond with ‘two minds’…. 1. being mentally ill does not negate ones responsibility. A crime is still a crime, regardless of the ‘reason’ one committed it. And secondly…. you, yourself, said it: “some criminals might falsely try to use mental illness as a way to get out of responsibility for their actions” – it happens more often than not (or so it seems). Recently a man in Canada stabbed, decapitated, dismembered & cannibalized a young man on a Greyhound bus (in front of horrified and traumatized onlookers)…this man has been found ‘not criminally responsible due to the fact that he claims that “voices in his head told him to commit the crime”. This man IS mentally ill – AND guilty of a crime. Given your belief that “there are also those who are truly mentally ill who are truly not responsible for those actions”, perhaps you should offer him a room in your home as he’s being released soon – I mean… he’s not responsible, right?

Glenda… in this instance -YOU did the right thing.

Comment by Glenda

June 2, 2009 @ 11:53 am

Maritzia, thanks for contributing your point. Perhaps I should have qualified my comment with some or a few accused individuals use mental insanity to shirk responsibility.

However, I have seen people with various disabilities take advantage of systems. As a disability advocate, should I not also shed light on that aspect too?

Comment by Glenda

June 2, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

Marina,

I completely agree jury duty is a civic responsibility to be taken seriously. However, arriving for juty duty with the “lock him up and throw away the key” mindset, because I’m so worn out, is not what the accused needed. Besides, are jury boxes even wheelchair accessible? ;)

Comment by Skye

June 2, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

Unfortunately I’m with Maritzia, I don’t know that it counts as “shedding light” on something to make such a comment in passing. As to Christine’s comment, I agree that someone can be mentally ill and also guilty of a crime. Having a mental illness is not a “get out of jail free” card, and that’s not the way the system works here in the US. The judicial process is supposed to test claims of legal insanity against a standard, it’s not enough just to have a mental illness. Obviously you can disagree that the system always works, and I’m sure there are cases where I would agree with you, but I don’t think it helps matters to make nonspecific claims that people with mental illnesses use their conditions to get out of being held responsible for their actions.

And I’m not sure what the exact definition of “physical infirmity incompatible with the discharge of the duties of a juror,” but it sounds like you’re not saying you couldn’t physically do it, but that you’re too tired and busy right now? When I was called for jury duty, I was still nursing my son, and his grandmother encouraged me to use the opt-out option of “responsible for the care of a minor child” even though I work from home and she’s my babysitter. I guess I could have said that I would have been too anxious about my son and too distracted by having to pump every few hours, but unfortunately that didn’t meet the standard the law had set for that option. Luckily, they didn’t make me stay past the first afternoon. So I guess it really depends on what the legal standard is.

Comment by Jon Swanson

June 4, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

in a sense, friend, your crime (to use your word from the title), is actually being willing to think on the outside of your head, to allow all of us to look at…and critique…your reasoning.

You could have exercised the right to remain silent (a US right), but no, you were transparent, you were honest.

So thank you for your willingness. Thanks for your graciousness. Thanks for allowing yourself to be the anvil.

And I agree. You get to move onto another subject.

Comment by Kat Nagel

June 5, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

Glenda wrote:
>Good point, Kat. I don’t recall that being
>an option on the form. What was your jury
>experience like?

I’ve served three times, and taken the ’small business exemption’ twice.

The first time I was called for jury duty was a mixture of boredom and fascination. After a week of hanging around waiting, I was finally selected for a medical malpractice case, very involved. I was impressed by my fellow jurors, who were more savvy than I expected. (sigh. We all carry stereotypes in our head.)

The second time was physically very uncomfortable. I spent most of the time moving between the waiting room and various court rooms for jury selection. The constant up-and-down was rough on my arthritic joints. This was before the building was renovated for accessibility, and there were lots of stairs and not nearly enough chairs in the rooms for all of us to sit. I wound up standing far too long for comfort. I was selected for a couple of small cases, but spent most of the two weeks waiting around.

My third jury experience was after the building renovation AND after some major changes in the selection process. Ramps and wide doorways everywhere—very easy to manage with cane (in my case) or wheelchairs. Less hanging around, too. Not everybody had to report every day, and once we had served on one case we were excused.

All in all, I’m glad I served. I’m also glad I took advantage of my right to postpone jury duty when I felt I wouldn’t be able to concentrate for business or health reasons. The justice system is better off when we can fulfill our commitment with our full attention.

K@
Kat Nagel

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