How to Avoid Jury Duty, #9: Leave Your Vote With the Foreman and Go to Cancún [Updated]

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I haven't had a formal category for this until now, but since the hoped-for wave of lawsuits by guests at Louisiana hotels who managed to seriously injure themselves while battling insects has not materialized (it seems to have stalled at two), I have reluctantly deleted that category to make room for this one.

Granted, this won't get you out of jury duty entirely, but it will get you out of further deliberations, so I think it counts.

A 20-year-old woman employed this method in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, skipping out on deliberations in a felony criminal case because she had tickets to Cancún. The jury had deliberated briefly after getting the case in the afternoon, but when it reconvened the next morning, it only had 11 members. Juror #4 had not returned. But she did call in, which was nice. "She called the clerk from O'Hare to say she was about to board a flight to Cancún," said defense attorney Robert D'Arruda. "But she said it was OK because she'd done her three days and left her vote with the foreman."

Ms. Juror #4 was laboring under a couple of misunderstandings here.

First, the rule in Wisconsin is not three days, it is two days or the duration of the trial. That is, you have to report to the courthouse for two days each year; if not called, you're done, but if you are picked for a jury, you're there for the duration. The rule is not, in other words, "feel free to scatter after 72 hours have passed."

Second, time spent in deliberations is included in "the duration of the trial." That is indeed part of what a juror is supposed to do. In fact, you might say it's the only reason the jurors are there. Maybe the paperwork did not make that clear.

Third (okay, three misunderstandings), one cannot "leave [one's] vote with the foreman" so that one may leave before deliberations are over. See, the idea is that the jurors—oh, forget it. Look, just don't leave before there's a verdict. A verdict. [Sigh.] You can't leave until the guy in the black dress says you can, all right? 

But with Juror #4 on her way to Mexico, that left the question of what to do with the case of State v. Outlaw. —Oh, did I forget to mention the defendant's name was Outlaw? Yep.

Spartacus Outlaw.

Which ordinarily might be the whole purpose of this post, except that he was the defendant in a case where a juror went to Cancún and said it was okay because she "left her vote with the foreman." So, what to do with said case? Assuming there were no alternates, at least, I think this'd be grounds for a mistrial, but Outlaw agreed to proceed with just the 11 jurors. The judge instructed them to go forward and not worry about "the runaway juror." It's not clear whether her vote would have mattered, as it turned out; the jury found Outlaw guilty of being a felon in possession of a gun but could not reach a verdict on the other charge, first-degree reckless injury with a dangerous weapon. Maybe his decision to proceed was a good one, maybe not.

As for the decision to bail on the jury, the court official in charge of jury management said it was the first time she'd seen this. "We've had people disappear from a trial," she said, "but not from deliberations." She also said that Juror #4 probably could have avoided the problem had she been honest up front about the vacation, since many judges are pretty lenient about "hardship" excuses, when they can be. "There are about seven million ways to get out of it," the official said. I guess it's a good thing I created a category for it then, but it's also a little concerning that I'm only on #9.

Update: Just checked on this (a little late) and it turns out Juror #4 has already had to face the music. According to the Milwaulkee Journal-Sentinel, #4 was called back into court today to explain. She could have been sent to jail, but although she got a lecture she escaped with a $300 fine. "I don't know if this was worth it," she said afterward, "but I did have a good time in Cancún." For a reason that wasn't explained, her brother also testified at the hearing, and took a philosophical perspective on the whole thing. "I guess it's just one of those situations where, you know, [expletive] happens," he reportedly told the judge. I was going to say that made her the smart one of the pair, but now I think that's not even a relevant question.