01/25/2013 12:06 EST | Updated 03/27/2013 05:12 EDT

How Getting Out of Jury Duty Got Susan Cole on Probation

I'm not proud of the fact that I've tried to get out of jury duty. But bragging about it on the radio? Bad idea.

That's exactly what one Susan Cole, 58, got nailed for recently in Denver. Cole, a local cosmetologist, wore heavy, smeared makeup, curlers in her hair and (gasp) mismatched reindeer socks and two different shoes in court. Not a good look -- in most public places, anyway. She also claimed to have PTSD, so Denver District Judge Anne Mansfield quickly dismissed Cole from jury duty.

But Cole is also an author, and when she was on a local radio talk show a few months later, she openly bragged about how she'd scammed her way out of the jury box.

One problem: Judge Mansfield was listening that day. So Cole was "selected" to go back to court, where she pled guilty to second-degree perjury and was sentenced to two years' probation and community service. No jury necessary.

We're told jury duty is our civic duty, like filing tax returns. Or stopping at red lights.

I know a comedian in the San Francisco area. Sam's also a former lawyer, and he always gets laughs with this punch line about the civic obligation:

"How'd you like YOUR life to depend on 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty?"

Cynical? Oh, just a tad.

But, as Cole's case shows, you can indeed come up with clever ways to get out of that duty. Just don't be found guilty of stupidity, like going on the radio and bragging about it.

After twice having to watch the same industrial film produced by the State of California (it was called something like "The Glory of Jury Duty") in a room full of strangers -- people I frankly preferred remain that way -- I got called for questioning for a trial that looked like it actually might happen. (It didn't -- last-minute plea bargain).

To my great relief, I did get excused, by telling the truth about what I did. There's something about the words "newspaper columnist," I learned, that seems to concern prosecutors and criminal lawyers. Maybe we just can't keep quiet.

But if I HAD lied, I sure wouldn't go on the radio to talk about it. It's the worst place to tell the truth.


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