How to Free a Wrongfully Accused Man in Four Easy Steps

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For many of us, jury duty refers to that special time every few years where we go downtown and wait around reading the paper until we get in front of everyone else and shame ourselves by explaining how we’re an adult who are unfit to make decisions. I’m not talking about the many people who have to care for small children or are full-time students or who truly don’t understand English very well. I’m talking about people like me; people who, when asked how things are going, tend to respond “crazy busy,” or even just “cray,” because we are too busy to say full words. We have learned that a) it’s pretty easy to get out of jury duty, and b) almost everyone expects you to do so. But if I had bowed to that pressure, I would have never ended up on a jury where we freed a man who had been wrongfully imprisoned for 24 years. Cray! Since I think most people would enjoy fulfilling their base-level civic responsibility (if only they had the tools!), I came up with these simple tips on how to not get out of jury duty. Clip it out and keep it in your wallet!
1. Try to remember you’re not better than others. This is sort of the trump card of not getting out of jury duty, and you can pretty much always fall back on it. I wish I had been able to slip this tip to the freelance curator next to me who couldn’t imagine not being available for work for a few days. Oh well, you can’t save everyone.
2. You’re most likely able to listen to things and make a decision based on what you hear. Oh man, this is the one that trips up most people. For instance, the person in my pool whose cousin’s arrest for a DUI felt it precluded her from being able to keep and open mind and make judgements based on evidence. That must be horrible. I hope she’s okay.
3. Turns out you can actually work a nearly full day. I was usually only at court for about four hours a day, and there were breaks for checking email and Instagram. Do your emails an hour earlier in the morning. Schedule your meetings for 4pm-7pm. This one, of course, is only for those of us who don’t build, move or clean things for a living.
4. For you early adopters and mavens out there, remember: it’s authentic! Well, not in the barn-inspired, reclaimed materials kind of way. More like the interacting with people who grew up and lived their entire lives in Brooklyn kind of way.
I hope these simple techniques help you not get out of jury duty. They helped me. And after deliberating with bunch of janitors, nurses, milk men and former educators, we decided Derrick Deacon should be let out of prison after spending 24 years there for something he didn’t do.
NB: Hat’s off to the the judge, the ADA, the court officers and the defense, which was an inspiring organization, the Exoneration Initiative. All very talented and hard-working. At times the court experience felt surreal, but I think it was actually just regular real.
Also NB: One of the kind and competent court officers has a neat non-profit called Pathways for Young Leaders, which serves disadvantaged youth in Brooklyn.

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