How Jury Duty Can Kill You

Jason Falls
4 min readDec 6, 2023
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

I have been summonsed to jury duty twice in my life. Once was in Birmingham, Ala. (Yes, I lived there at the time.) The other was in Louisville.

The former experience inspired this column which appeared in the Appalachian News-Express in August 2005, just weeks before I was fired as a humor columnist, allegedly for being too funny.

It has been revised to placate my persnicketiness in my writing.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never been summonsed to appear in court. Most of my friends found that hard to believe considering all of them have, at one time or another, considered suing me.

My family members were even shocked to learn this particular summons would lead to my court of law debut performance. Several of them swore I had even been convicted of several misdemeanor offenses, likely referring to my 14 citations for disobeying the suggested pace of travel posted on the U.S. interstate highway system, which I refer to as my own, personal ‘dega.

The fact is, I’ve never appeared in court for speeding because the police and I have an implicit understanding: I implicitly understand there is a level of speed beyond which they do not want me to travel. They implicitly understand I don’t give a damn.

But alas, my absence from the American judicial system ended last month when I was ordered to appear for, and thus tried to think of creative ways to get out of, jury duty.

My name was in the second group called to court. I, along with 29 others, reported for a criminal case. We sat through three hours of questioning by both the assistant district attorney and the defense counsel as they decided who among us should decide the case before them.

When one attorney asked the questions, “Do you own a firearm, do you know where it is and is it loaded?” I responded with, “Are you implying we may need to off ourselves to get out of this.”

Apparently, the American judicial system doesn’t have a sense of humor, and they don’t to the tune of a $500 contempt of court fine. My grandfather once said my wit would one day pay off. He failed to mention for whom.

From that point on, I figured I wouldn’t get picked, so I stopped vying for selection. Of course, as backup, I was wearing my “Beer is food” T-shirt and kept humming The Kinks’ “Guilty” during questioning as well.

Much to my dismay, when you don’t get selected for a jury, they don’t let you go home. You go back to the selection room and wait for another trail to need jurors.

The 17 people sent back along with me apparently got to talking. Pretty soon, everyone was asking me about my courtroom shenanigans and if I was trying to get out of serving the rest of the week.

I loudly claimed I was proud to serve and to prove it, I would be offering free judicial-themed tattoos in the jury selection room from then until Friday. The jury clerks seemed rather nervous.

When I showed up on Tuesday morning with my machine, vials of ink, ointment, needles, stencils and selection binder, they began a process of furious phone calls with animated whispering and nervous pointing.

Halfway through my third tattoo of the day — a depiction of the blind justice statue being guided from a liquor store by a seeing-eye armadillo named Ed wearing an English House of Lords wig — the now wide-eyed and clinch-toothed clerks came over the internal public address system to announce three cases settled before trial and they could now allow one randomly-selected juror to leave for the week. While I did not understand the math, it wasn’t surprising to hear my name called.

As I finished Ed’s snout and told Shirley to enjoy her new ‘too, a pair of deputy sheriffs arrived and offered to help carry the equipment to the car. I declined and asked them instead to help Shirley, who used a walker and had only one arm which was sore from the recent artwork addition. When she tried to move the walker, it scooted a bit to the left and she just walked in circles. The deputies insisted she’d still be there when they got back and helped me to the parking garage.

On my way out, I made sure to tell the clerks how much I enjoyed serving and would be glad to see them again.

“You guys have the most aromatic ceiling tiles of any public office space in town,” I said. “You should offer portions of them during snack time, perhaps with a light hollandaise sauce.”

They smiled and made sure to take down my name and address to get hold of the recipe.

A few days later, I was trying to purchase some decorative shellacked Pignolia nuts off the internet when my credit card was rejected. After inquiring as to why — I’ve had a no-limit Chase Visa card ever since I threatened to needlepoint the Communist Manifesto into the curtains at my bank in 1986 — I was shocked to find out what the jury clerks did with my contact information.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Falls,” the bank teller said. “According to the Jefferson County court clerk’s office, you are now deceased.”

Jason Falls is dead, which means he can now speed and run red lights. Falls, off the Rocker often contains satire, which is often held in contempt.

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Jason Falls

Writer & published author. Marketing strategist & podcaster. Dad. I think I’m funny, too.