Tue, November 15th, 2011 - 5:36 am - By Gordon Basichis
Jury duty is a funny thing. Some people love it and feel they are fulfilling a public service. Other folks will do whatever they can to avoid it. And then some claim it is really not fair to haul someone out of work, someone who is not receiving compensation for jury duty, while there are so many others out there who are retired, out of work, or otherwise in ready supply.
And since there are so many prospective jurors out there, especially in the larger cities, it is a wonder that we sometimes get the jurors we have. There are some very astute jurors and some who have a tough time spelling DNA. Yet in Chicago, an article in the Tribune, there seems to be a situation where some of the jurors had prior felonies. Some jurors concealed their previous criminal records. A little off puting when the alleged”peers” are deciding someone is guilty or innocent.
Some Illinois counties do perform background checks on prospective jurors. According to the Tribune article…”Such background checks have been common in Cook County criminal courtrooms for decades, but it’s unclear how often they are performed at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. Though jurors were vetted in both Blagojevich trials, there have been a handful of other high-profile cases in which they were not, several defense attorneys said.”
According to the article…”Felons can serve on federal juries in Illinois if their rights have been restored, but they often are dismissed from the jury pool because of their criminal histories. In the end, that the Cellini juror apparently concealed her convictions may be more problematic than the convictions themselves.”
If you are out front about your convictions, there is a chance you will be allowed to serve on the jury. But lie about previous criminal records, and if they are discovered, then chances are you are rejected from service. The belief is that if you are lying about your own criminal past, then how can you be fair when judging a defendant? Good question, for sure.