Juror No. 4361 was a wreck.
Her hair hung askew in curlers. Her shoes and reindeer socks mismatched. Heavy makeup was smeared on her face.
Denver District Court Judge Anne Mansfield — presiding over jury selection June 28 — quickly dismissed the woman, who explained in disjointed speech, "I broke out of domestic violence in the military. And I have a lot of repercussions. One is post-traumatic stress disorder."
Now Juror No. 4361 — published author and Denver cosmetologist Susan Cole
— faces felony charges after allegedly bragging months later on a radio program that she fabricated the elaborate ruse to duck jury duty.
Turns out, Judge Mansfield was listening.
Denver Jury Commissioner LeAnna Mosher said wacky behavior or dress isn't unusual in a jury pool, though she "had to laugh" at the way Cole was found out.
"I say congrats to the judge," Mosher said. "I'm sure jury duty is very scary for a lot of people, or they're too busy. Our justice system wouldn't work if our jurors didn't show up. It's important.
An affidavit for Cole's arrest details how she allegedly weaved her fiction and how it quickly unraveled.
In June, Cole wrongly believed her cousin had been involved in a fatal motorcycle accident, an "emotionally draining" experience that left her unprepared to serve on a jury the next day
, according to the affidavit.
When she appeared in court June 28, Cole stood out among other jurors.
"Her makeup looked like something you would wear during a theater performance," Kelli Wessels, who was the court reporter that day, recalled in a statement to investigators. "When the judge asked the entire panel if anyone had a mental illness, (Cole) stated she had difficulties getting ready in the morning
, which was apparent to me by the way she was dressed."
Cole told Mansfield she had lived on the streets, got confused in the mornings and didn't "want to emotionally go through this," according to court transcripts. She was excused.
"It moves from just being a serious civic responsibility to a potential criminal matter because potential jurors have taken an oath to answer questions from the judge and attorneys truthfully," said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office.