Trump Jurors Have Nothing on These Wacky Excuses to Dodge Jury Duty

Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images
Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images

It’s the eye-roll inducing excuse every judge has heard: I simply can’t be fair. Except with Donald Trump, it might be true.

The first day of Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan ran straight into that near-impossible challenge: finding a group of New Yorkers who could give a tabloid target and one of the most controversial presidents in recent history a fair hearing.

Of the 96 potential jurors brought into the courtroom Monday afternoon for screening, around half were immediately dismissed when they indicated to Judge Juan Merchan that—surprise, surprise—they would be simply unable to remain impartial in a trial involving Trump. Another two were later dismissed, with one woman concluding under questioning that she, too, couldn’t be fair, while a man said the trial might end up clashing with his kid’s wedding, according to The New York Times.

Jake Tapper Cracks Up Over Impression of Jury Candidate Who ‘Hated’ Trump

“I just couldn’t do it,” one prospective juror, seemingly overwhelmed with the drama of it all, was reportedly heard saying outside the courtroom.

Fair enough.

Jurors on other cases have offered up far more outlandish or scandalous excuses they couldn’t do their civic duty. Here are some of the weirdest.

I’m friends with a serial killer

But really, who isn’t these days? Jury selection for a trial in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010 veered off a cliff when the judge got that extremely unsettling answer to a routine screening question.

“Has anyone you know ever been convicted of a crime?” Judge John Sutula asked the pool of jurors, according to The Plain Dealer. One of them replied: “I had a close friend in high school who killed 17 people.”

The courtroom was understandably stunned by the answer—and then it got even crazier. When asked who the juror was talking about, he answered: “Jeffrey Dahmer.”

Oh, that guy. The Jeffrey Dahmer who brutally killed 17 people between the late 70s and early 90s, dismembering and even eating his victims.

The prospective juror was John “Derf” Backderf—a cartoonist who wrote a graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, based on his adolescent experiences with the boy who would grow up to be one of America’s most famous serial killers.

Backderf was dismissed from the jury list. Shocker.

I am the judge in this case

When Keith Cutler received an official summons for jury service in 2019, he was a little bit surprised—because he was the judge presiding over the case.

You might think he was quickly scrubbed from the list but, according to Cutler’s telling, he was not so lucky.

Cutler, the resident judge of Winchester and Salisbury in southern England, later explained the farce in Salisbury Crown Court.

“I told the Jury Central Summoning Bureau that I thought I would be inappropriate seeing [as] I happened to be the judge and knew all the papers,” Cutler said, according to the BBC. “They wrote back to me, they picked up on the fact I was the judge but said ‘your appeal for refusal has been rejected but you could apply to the resident judge’ but I told them ‘I am the resident judge.’”

He added that they eventually let him off when he spoke to someone at the bureau on the phone. Typical.

I need to see my sugar daddy

One potential juror went viral in 2022 for telling a judge—with a straight face—that she simply could not leave her sugar daddy high and dry.

The woman, identified by WPLG as “Mrs. Bristol,” included the excuse among several reasons why she would not be able to serve on the jury in the sentencing stage of the trial of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz.

“I need to figure out something,” Bristol told Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer at the time. “I have my sugar daddy that I see every day.”

“I’m sorry?” Scherer replied. “My sugar daddy,” Bristol repeated.

She later insisted in an interview that she wasn’t trying to dodge jury duty. “If I do this case for six months, I have a hardship that means my sugar daddy can’t support me,” she said, claiming she would lose “$8,000 a month” if she was busy with the case.

Bristol was excused.

I just really hate cryptocurrencies

The collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX sent shockwaves through the markets and scared some people off the prospect of piling their money into the crypto world for good.

Some prospective jurors at the former billionaire’s subsequent fraud trial last year had already made up their minds about the whole world of crypto. One explained to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan that he wouldn’t be able to remain unbiased because both he and his twin brother had suffered substantial financial losses after making crypto investments, according to Business Insider.

“I did lose a lot,” the potential juror, who was dismissed, told Kaplan. “My twin brother invested even more and it did finally ruin him.”

I’m an El Chapo stan

Multiple potential jurors were excused from the 2018 drug trafficking trial of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—directly tied to the deaths of dozens—on the grounds that they feared for their lives.

Reasonable? Oh, I guess.

But some dismissals were more unusual.

One man who described himself as a Michael Jackson impersonator was dismissed after prosecutors argued that his job made him too easily recognizable for the proceedings in which jurors would remain anonymous for their safety.

Another man was shown the door for an even stranger reason.

On the second day of selection, a court security officer informed the judge that one potential juror had asked if he could get Guzman’s autograph. One of Guzman’s lawyers, Jeffrey Lichtman, initially said the man should be allowed to stay on the case, arguing: “I have the autograph of Charles Manson, and the two leaders of Hamas, and obviously I'm not a big fan of them.”

When asked by the judge why he wanted Guzman’s autograph, the juror answered: “I’m a bit of a fan.” He was then removed from the proceedings.

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