The Most Common Excuses Used To Get Out Of Jury Duty

Jury duty isn't something folks typically look forward to.

In the last financial year almost half a million people were called to take part in jury duty. That's in NSW alone.

However, only three percent of these actually sat on the panel of 12.

Approximately 11,000 people in NSW are empanelled on a jury each year.

"The most common reasons for seeking to be excused from jury service include child care responsibilities, illness, employment ... and pre-booked travel," a spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office told ten daily.

For those who don't have a reasonable excuse,  a legal expert has told ten daily what lawyers commonly look for when selecting or removing people from a panel.

Lawyers Look For Body Language When Choosing A Jury

When people are called to form a jury, they sit in a room and the Crown's case -- what the state alleges happened -- is read to them. This process is crucial for lawyers and their clients because they can see people's initial reaction to a case.

"We take a look at the people on the panel and if someone is making a face or has their arms crossed or they give a negative reaction in some way, we really look for that," Avinash Singh Senior Associate Lawyer at Sydney Criminal Lawyers told ten daily.

Lawyers look for body language. Image: Getty Images.

"It’s quite an important process because they are the people you are presenting to ... the jury makes the ultimate decision and they are your audience, so the process of choosing them is pretty significant," he said.

Twelve people are called to be part of the panel. Lawyers are able to ask these people questions and each side has the chance to object to three members.

According to civil rights lawyer Deborah C. England the group hearing -- called a voir dire which is french for "to speak the truth"--  is also a way to ensure the trial will be unbiased.

"Another purpose of voir dire, the one that serves the public interest in fair trials, is to determine if a prospective juror harbours any biases that would prevent them from being impartial," she wrote on website Criminal Defence Laywers.

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Lawyers Observe How Interested People Look In The Case

Lawyers look for interested and engaged jury members and they have the chance to ask potential jury members questions about their jobs, ages and beliefs before deciding to object.

Being disinterested could get a person dismissed. Image: Getty Images.

"You might object to someone based on the way they answer a question -- either the content of their answer or the way they answer it," Singh said.

If they aren’t really interested in the case, you really don’t want someone on the jury if they aren’t interested and look as they they aren’t going to listen.
Gender And Cultural Background Play A Part In Jury Selection

Lawyers could also select a jury based on the type of crime, gender or cultural background of their client.

"If they have the same background of your client they will be able to relate, generally, to your clients background and they will be able to bring their input to the jury," Singh told ten daily. 

"For example, with a sexual assault matter generally, the complaints are female, so females tend to be more sympathetic to a complaint, so you try and keep an even balance of females and males in that case."

England said lawyers also look for cultural or religious biases the could disadvantage their client.

"A prospective juror may be challenged for cause because of ... a religious prohibition on imposing a sentence or otherwise fulfilling his or her role, or gender, race, or other bias," England wrote.

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Lawyers look for people who might sympathise with their client's case. Image: Getty Images.
Almost Anything Can Play Into Selection

Singh said that sometimes little or seemingly irrelevant elements can play into whether is person is selected.

"Back in the day, people used to come in with a newspaper so if you had a conservative newspaper you would be a bit more likely to take that person off your jury, so sometimes little things like that come into it," Singh said.

So basically, if you look negative, disinterested and deliberately answer a question in an unusual way,  you could be setting yourself up to get excused from jury duty.

Featured Image: Getty Images. 

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au