By Danae Snell
RIVERSIDE – Courthouses across the United States have heard a wide variety of reasons for potential jurors to request to be excused from jury service; however, COVID-19 could be this year’s most common explanation.
Some jurors from the Riverside Superior Court explained thoroughly how COVID-19 has affected their ability to serve jury duty, but some merely stated, “I have asthma and don’t want to get COVID.”
It is common for many people to “recoil at the mere mention of juror duty”—as in one case—and attempt to find any reason to be excused by the court.
Judge Dale Wells from the Riverside Superior Court heard numerous explanations as to why jury duty would cause severe conflict to summoned jurors.
One potential juror wrote on their paperwork, “Life of a retired police officer with a 13-year-old daughter at home full time due to COVID and online schooling with nobody else able to watch. Then, the husband and I were convicted by Riverside County in 2010 for a felony. Now I am biased and don’t believe in the justice system.”
This remark received its intended reaction when Judge Wells stated quickly, “Okay enough for me, goodbye.”
Many potential jurors conjure up lies to be excused, which end up hurting individuals that claim truthful hardships.
For example, another potential juror requested hardship based on, “I have been living off PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance), but since that ended things have been getting tight. Finally, my place of employment is open so I am able to work and I need to get back to work. I helped support my mother and she is disabled.”
Many individuals have truly been affected by this year’s circumstances, ranging from uncontrollable fires, the coronavirus pandemic, police violence, and so much more.
With everything going on in the world, many judges and attorneys have been pretty understanding and “liberal” towards potential jurors’ explanation of hardships.
And, then there are people inside hospitals. Judge Wells noted, “We’ve been letting people dealing with hospitals and COVID patients go” when a juror claimed he was a physician commonly exposed to COVID-19 patients.
The coronavirus has allowed many jurors to be excused from jury duty without being questioned in most situations; however, Judge Wells did not allow it to be used as a blanket excuse for all cases.
One potential juror requested hardship by informing the court, “I have to help my daughter with her child especially now that school is virtual.” Although this request pertains to COVID-19, the judge chose to keep this juror for the next round of jury selection.
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