Many people cringe when they get a notice of jury service, anticipating possible disruption to their daily lives. But the perils of jury service can be much greater.
In the California Supreme Court case of People v. Abel (2012), the defendant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. One of Abel’s grounds for appeal was a number of allegedly prejudicial comments that the judge made during the trial. For instance, at one point the trial judge told the jurors that if he found out that they had discussed the case while the trial was ongoing, they would have to be “shot, or some other reasonable form of punishment.” The Court rejected Abel’s argument, pointing out that the trial judge just had “a propensity to quip whenever the opportunity arose,” so comments like these were no harm, no foul.
Going back a few centuries, be glad you weren’t an English juror during the reign of Henry VIII. A 1531 statute provided that if the jury gave an erroneous verdict, every member of the jury had to forfeit property, half to the King and the other half to the wronged party.
The bottom line: when you get that jury service notice, be happy if your only concern is possible disruption to daily life!