Murder Suspect Shouldn't Get Out of Jury Duty

Jeanne Sager
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jury summonsDavid Laffer seems to have a ready-made excuse to get out of jury duty. He's a murder suspect, awaiting trial in the now infamous Long Island pharmacy case. Prosecutors say he killed four people during a robbery, and as such Laffer was sitting in Riverhead Correctional Facility when he received his jury summons. So he's sent a letter asking to be excused from his civic duty, but should they give it to him?

Oh, I know it sounds kind of crazy. The cops say this guy murdered four people, and we really expect him to pass judgment on someone else's guilt or innocence? Well, it is a jury of your peers that a defendant is shooting for, right? The fit couldn't be better.

Jokes aside, there is something to be said for the way our justice system works. We are afforded the right to innocence until guilt is proven in a courtroom. That applies to every suspect, even someone like David Laffer.

And what comes with rights in America? Responsibilities to society. We are supposed to uphold the law. We're supposed to vote in public elections. We're supposed to agree to serve on a jury not because we want to but because we have to.

The fact is, very few people want to serve on a jury. With the vitriolic response to the 12 men and women who just did their job in the Casey Anthony trial, I can't say I blame them. And of course, there's more than that. There's the inconvenience. The poor pay. The difficulty rearranging one's entire life to drive two hours one way to serve on a federal jury.

The court system doesn't always make it feasible for Americans to fulfill their duty as a citizen. Sending a jury summons to a man sitting in jail, waiting for a trial, may be the best example of that. Laffer can't just knock on the cell door and tell the guard he has to be at court at 8 a.m. to take part in jury selection.

And yet, let's look at the reasons people seek to get out of jury duty, the good, valid reasons: a mom who is breastfeeding can't be separated from her child, a parent who is the primary caregiver to her child can't afford to pay a sitter on $40 a day, a self-employed business owner can't make a living if they have to shut down the business for 35 days to go serve on a jury. These are good reasons, all of them.

So what about a guy like David Laffer? It's not like he has something he "has" to do right now, something that keeps him from serving his duty. And even more to the point, right now he's being afforded the right to innocence before being proven guilty. He's got the "rights" of a regular citizen. And don't those rights come with responsibilities? Remember, he's a murder suspect, not a murderer. At least not right now.

It's a tough call, isn't it? What do you think? Should being a suspect in a crime strike you from the jury duty list?

 

Image via zzpza/Flickr

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