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7 Excuses People Gave to Avoid Jury Duty in Senator Menendez’s Bribery Trial

Local7 Excuses People Gave to Avoid Jury Duty in Senator Menendez’s Bribery Trial

Before jury selection in Senator Robert Menendez’s bribery case began, the federal judge overseeing the case gave prospective jurors a chance to explain why serving for the trial’s duration — likely two months — would be a hardship.

The would-be jurors disclosed challenges familiar to many families: child care, work obligations, long-planned vacations and scheduled surgeries.

Other explanations were less conventional. Not all resulted in immediate disqualification. Here are a few:

  • One juror told the judge, Sidney H. Stein, that he had an extreme fear of heights and would have difficulty serving in a courtroom on the 23rd floor of the federal courthouse. The man, who works as a financial adviser on the second floor of an office building in New Jersey, said he was already feeling anxious and unwell. “I’m really sorry, everybody,” he said as he was excused from service and escorted from a room adjacent to the courtroom, where the judge questioned jurors with hardship claims for the better part of two days.

  • A doctoral candidate studying art history at CUNY said she had a grant to conduct research at the Centre Pompidou’s archives in Paris next month. Judge Stein suggested that she might shift her research to later in the summer. “In August, Paris is empty,” he said, apparently unaware of the onrush of tourists expected this summer for the Olympic Games.

    “August,” she replied, “the archives are closed.”

  • A woman who works as a law professor explained somewhat sheepishly that she had tickets to see a Bruce Springsteen concert in Spain during a five-week, prepaid summer vacation in Europe scheduled to start later this month.

    “Springsteen just announced his tour dates for the next year — seriously,” Judge Stein offered.

    “Will he live that long, though?” the prospective juror responded about the rock icon, who is 74.

    “He’s decided just to keep on going,” the judge concluded, declining to immediately dismiss the woman. “So, you can catch him, probably.”

  • A graduate student said she was applying to roughly 25 medical schools and explained that the applications, due in the coming weeks, included multiple essays, which she had not completed. “So that is a priority of mine,” she said. Judge Stein asked about her flexibility to work on the applications at night and on weekends. She explained that she volunteered as an unpaid epidemiologist and also worked 30 hours a week as a gymnastics coach.

  • A graphic artist who works for late-night comedy television shows said he did not believe he could be impartial. “I’ve certainly worked on things critical of the senator,” he told the judge on Monday. The judge was unconvinced.

    The man then added that he had safety concerns, given that some of the charges were tied to foreign governments. “There’s a lot of fears when it comes to this stuff,” he said.

    “This is not the Trump trial,” Judge Stein replied, adding, “I’ve never heard any issue like that here.”

    Still, the man persisted, noting that he had a fear of the Saudi Arabian government — a country not listed among the names and places jurors had been read at the start of the selection process.

    “Now I think you’re simply trying to get out of jury duty,” the judge said.

    That’s when the man made a final pitch that seemed to reveal a curious set of priorities.

    His pregnant wife, he said, was expected to deliver a baby on June 15.

    He was among the final batch of jurors excused on Wednesday.

  • A woman said she had nonrefundable tickets to travel to Rome and Greece in June. She said she was meeting up with a sister who she had only recently met. “A half sister that I just met in December ’20,” the woman explained.

    “I’m tempted to ask people for proof,” Judge Stein said before dismissing the juror.

  • A cyclist described a planned three-month cross-country bike trip that was planned to start May 30.

    ”I take it that’s something you can cancel, if need be?” the judge asked, eliciting a yes.

    “And reschedule?” he pressed.

    “Well,” the cyclist answered, “not as easy.”

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