What Would You Do to Get Out of Jury Duty?

A Mass. man told a judge he's a racist, homophobe and liar.

ByABC News via via logo

July 12, 2007 — -- No one likes to get that letter to report for jury duty, and millions of Americans have probably tried to come up with an excuse or two to get out of it.

A Massachusetts judge says what happened in his courtroom is the single most brazen attempt he has ever seen, and he may make a man pay for it.

What would you do to get out of jury duty? On the TV show "Curb Your Enthusiasm," when Larry David asked whether he'd ever been the victim of a serious crime, he said, "My cousin once stole an Almond Joy from me. It was quite upsetting at the time."

But in real life, Cape Cod, Mass., resident Daniel Ellis took it to another level. First, he filled out his jury questionnaire saying he didn't like homosexuals.

Then, in a tense exchange with the judge, Ellis said, "I'm a racist. … I'm frequently found to be a liar too."

"So are you lying to me now?" asked Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson.

"I don't know. I might be," Ellis said.

"I have the distinct impression that you're intentionally trying to avoid jury service," said Nickerson.

"That's true," Ellis admitted.

Court TV reporter Lisa Bloom said the man had crossed the line.

"To testify that he's racist, homophobic and a liar, and therefore he should be disqualified from jury service, a lot of people want to get out of jury service, but he went a little too far," Bloom said.

The judge thought so too, and had the man taken into custody.

At courthouses across the country, judges, attorneys and court officers have heard all kinds of excuses.

In New York, one "… juror said they have hemorrhoids and they can't sit, and they sent in their used tube of Anusol," said Vincent Homenick, chief clerk of New York County Court. "Or a juror writes in and says her summons was late because her cat threw up on the summons."

It is easy to joke about, but most people take jury duty seriously.

According to a survey by the American Bar Association, 84 percent of people say it should be fulfilled, even if it is inconvenient.

In some counties, though, about 20 percent never show up — which is not good for the justice system.

"We don't want juries who are just comprised of 12 people who couldn't think of an excuse to get out of jury duty," Bloom said.

And for those who do show up, in New York at least, there are some treats.

One is the orientation video, which features "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer.

"I'm going to take you through the way it really is, what you can expect when you sit on a jury," says Sawyer on the tape.

Massachusetts officials haven't decided whether they will press charges against Ellis. If they do, some charges he could face are contempt of court, perjury and obstruction of justice — charges that are no laughing matter.

What would you do to get out of jury duty? Let us know in the comments sections.

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