Career in media helps jury dismissal

For the third time in my life, I've been selected for jury duty. The previous two times I was excused.

  • First time: I was in college, and could not make the daily 1,200-mile trip the jury service would require.
  • Second time: I was covering pretty much anything at the Portales newspaper, including cops and courts. I walked in and they excused me in 30 seconds.

If you've ever been on a jury, or heard court proceedings, you know why I was dismissed. A judge will specifically instruct jurors not to discuss an ongoing case with the media.

It turns out that I'm the media, and my presence in a courtroom ever so slightly changes the atmosphere … even if the only thing I'm carrying is a notebook.

That was the case a few years ago, when I didn't finalize the time for a hearing. Had I done that, I would have realized it was moved (which happens all the time in the legal system), and the courtroom was rescheduled for a different jury trial. I figured out that I was in the wrong place pretty quickly, but the courtroom doors were closed and I had to just sit there and pretend I wasn't an idiot at the wrong trial.

It just so turned out a coworker was in the jury. He told me later that afternoon that he was struck with fear. "Kevin's here? Is this a big deal? Will I get to see my family tonight, or will I have to stay sequestered in a hotel?"

Obviously, he didn't get a major case, as he was back at the office that afternoon. He told me it was a landmark DWI case, predicated on the "I wasn't driving my car" defense. They took about 15 minutes to convict.

I kept that in mind when I got the letter from Clovis Magistrate Court. I disclosed my job, and that I'd be a terrible choice for any trial the newspaper was likely to cover. I could, however, handle non-violent offenses or ones not involving well-known residents.

I'm writing this column ahead of my Tuesday morning in court, so I don't know what the final result will be. I'm going to try to do the right thing and serve the citizenry as a juror if I can. I'm going to be honest (I think DWI checkpoints are illegal, and I think we should legalize marijuana but continue to incarcerate potheads), and I'm not going to use cheap ways to get out of jury duty (end every sentence with, "The Lord rebuke you," or note that you follow only the laws of Middle Earth).

OK, I couldn't resist one attempt at fun. The questionnaire asked my legal name, and what I preferred to be called. Say hello to Juror No. 1, Kevin Wilson … who likes to be called Dr. Love Jones.

I'm probably not going to get a fourth chance on a jury for a long time.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email: kwilson@cnjonline.com

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