The Case of the Exaggerating Juror

From Bucks Count Pennsylvania comes a cautionary tale with an important lesson for drama queens, hypochondriacs, and people who just have a tendency toward hyperbole:

Exaggerating is the same as lying.

Juror Anthony DiCicco wasn’t trying to get out of jury duty; in fact, he was looking forward to it. He had been very sick a few weeks before the July trial in which he was impaneled got underway, but he thought he had fully recuperated. Then, in the middle of  the trial, he began feeling ill again. Wanting to make sure that nobody thought he was a weenie but fearing to infect the jury by staying on, DiCicco didn’t just tell an official he was ill. He said that he had just received a call from his doctor informing him that he had swine flu.

AS Bucks County Judge Clyde W. Waite noted later, he might as well have said, “I have the bubonic plague.” The jury was released.  The trial was halted with a mistrial. Jurors were afraid to go home or return to work, fearing spreading the dread disease. The judge even had to skip a family funeral as a precaution.


DiCicco’s exaggeration, his lie, cost the litigants and the County money as well as inconveniencing and alarming dozens of people. When the juror’s  misrepresentation was finally revealed, Judge Krantz found him in contempt of court  and sentenced him to three days of watching trials.

DiCicco got off relatively easy, because he had really been ill; if he had been lying about that part too, the punishment would have been worse.  It should have been anyway: I would have fined him. Exaggeration can cause just as much harm as any other lie. It is a habit worth breaking.

As Jack Webb used to say on the old radio and TV police show, “Dragnet”“Just the facts, ma’am!”

The truth is one cake that frosting ruins.

4 thoughts on “The Case of the Exaggerating Juror

  1. Was the juror unethical? Undoubtably, he didn’t know if he had the flu or not and he said, basically, that test results showed he had swine flu. Were the resulting over-the-top procedures completely his fault? No, the result should have been no more disruptive than if he told them he had the flu.

    This leads to another unethical exaggeration: the government and media swine flu panic. Despite the hype, I am really not convinced that the swine flu is a major, serious problem. Before you label me a conspiracy nut, let me explain. At first, there were concerns about this flue because it contains human, swine, and avian flu components. The avian flu components were the worrying part, because the avian flu has a very high mortality rate. People have been exposed to swine flu for quite some time, so this is not really worrying. After 7 months, however, this flu doesn’t seem to be any more deadly than the normal seasonal flu. It may seem like it, because lots of people normally get vaccinated for the seasonal flu. Over 60% of children get vaccinated and the vaccine is over 75% effective. This reduces the incidence of flu in that group by 50%. That means that without the vaccine, there would be around 200 children/ year who die from the flu (according to reported rates). Normal flu deaths are highly underreported (testing isn’t always done) so that number could easily be double (400). After 7 months, the swine flu has killed 540. This is about right. Is it a severe flu? Maybe, but it’s mortality seems on-track for the seasonal flu for children and less for adults.
    Remember, years of flu shots have produced a lot of people with no natural immunity against the flu. When they get it for the first time, it is going to be really bad. When I got the flu as a child, I ran a 104 ºF fever for several days. This was considered normal at the time.
    I have really been wondering if the government is using this widespread flu to test their emergency procedures. This does make the perfect dry run.

    If you are wondering, I have been exposed to several people diagnosed with the swine flu. I don’t necessarily want it, but I am not really worried about it.

  2. Michael: you’re not a conspiracy nut; I share many of your doubts about the swine flu “epidemic.” It appears to me to be a lot closer to a typical flu than the influenza plague that killed so many a century ago.

    But to answer your question about the juror: of course he was unethical: he lied. He didn’t have swine flu, and said that a doctor’s office had called and told him he did. The nature of his misrepresentation set off a chain of events that injured others by costing money and interfering with lives. Your “should” is misplaced: maybe it shouldn’t have caused such a disruption because the swine flu is hyped, but the juror knew it was hyped, as would you. He is 100% reponsible for the results of his lie, because he was the direct cause of the disruption. It is the same in law: if a party is negligent, he doesn’t have to be able to anticipate all the bad things that happen as a result, as long as they are direct results of the act. These were.

  3. My comment wasn’t so much that he was without fault in this, it was that other people helped in the carnage that followed. Even if he did have swine flu, the resulting actions were an overreaction.

  4. I understand. But look: If you shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, everyone SHOULD move to the exits in an orderly way, while the management puts on the lights and staff guides patrons to safety. If everyone freaks out, however, and the management runs, and the lights are off, and a doorway is blocked, and there’s a mass panic where people are trampled to death, you can’t say, “Well, this isn’t all my fault: people over-reacted.” They did, but you are 100% at fault for the situation arising.

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