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Posted: 9/7/2004 5:52:38 AM EST
Jury dodgers face public shaming, fines but problem persists

Tuesday September 07, 2004

By RYAN PEARSON
Associated Press Writer

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) Every month, hundreds of people are summoned to courts across the nation's most populous county for a public scolding. It's no surprise that only a handful show up after all, they are expert at that all-American custom: dodging jury duty.

Fed-up judges from Los Angeles County to New York have responded by redirecting these scofflaws from the jury box to the hot seat. Residents who ignore repeated calls to appear can face fines and, in some places, even jail time.

The problem has proven that, as with jury duty in the first place, persuading prospective jurors to attend sanction hearings isn't easy.

``It's not an invitation,'' said jury expert Tom Munsterman of the court orders which regularly pop up in mailboxes nationwide, ``it's an obligation.''

Tell that to the 217 of 225 chronic offenders who disregarded a demand that they face a judge in Long Beach last week.

Superior Court Judge James L. Wright issued more stern warnings than $250 fines to the eight who did show. Those who ducked their duty were all fined, though penalties would be dropped if they actually serve.

A single mother holding her infant had her service deferred a year. A man who told the judge he ignored the summons because he doesn't speak English well was ordered to report next month. He'll face the fine if he skips court again.

Wright watched as tears rolled down the face of Darlene Acevedo, a 52-year-old dock worker from Wilmington.

``My husband's in the hospital for a year. ... I have a certain amount of hours I have to'' work, she pleaded. ``I don't have the time. Right now the way I feel, I can't be a juror.''

The judge deferred her service to next September.

Still teary eyed outside court, Acevedo expressed anger over being required to serve.

``A jury is not something you should be forced to do,'' she said. ``It's something you want to do.''

You, who?

Factoring in deferrals, bad addresses and legitimate excuses, an average of 20 to 30 percent of the summonses sent out nationwide net a juror, according to Munsterman of the Virginia-based Center for Jury Studies.

Books explain how to duck the duty, and numerous Web sites list excuses both serious and lighthearted: ``I get dizzy if I try to weigh evidence,'' ``I'm allergic to justice'' and that old one about the dog.

``I don't think people realize it is a citizenship duty until we put it right in front of their face,'' Wright said Thursday.

Nationwide, courts are trying to do just that make the consequences of jury dodging more painful.

Since November, state trial courts around Phoenix have sent sheriff's deputies to the homes of jury dodgers with orders to appear.

``Very rarely have we had anybody served with that who fails to appear for the hearing,'' said Bob James, the district's jury director. ``When people call in, they reference it. 'Aw well, I'm calling in because I hear you guys are fining people and arresting people, so I figured I'd do it.'''

Courts across New York are adopting New York County's successful penalty system, which snared 1,443 Manhattan jury dodgers last year with $250 fines, according to Vincent Homenick, chief clerk of the borough's jury division.

The massive Los Angeles County court system, which sent out 2.9 million summonses in the last fiscal year and had an initial response rate around 25 percent, is also trying to cope.

Sanction hearings like the one in Long Beach catch only a small fraction of jury dodgers and are intended primarily as public outreach.

Until two years ago, they were held solely at the main downtown Los Angeles courthouse. The massive county's 9.9 million people weren't getting the message, so officials began rotating the hearings among various courts.

The county slapped residents with more than $940,000 in penalties over the first six months of this year, fines that are referred to a collection agency. Court officials couldn't say how many people were fined.

The common refrain isn't that people want to avoid serving it's that serving can be a pain. Courts say they get the message and are becoming more accommodating.

California has unveiled simplified civil jury instructions and is working to craft the same for criminal cases. Across Arizona, most of California and at least five other states, jury service now operates under a system designed to limit dreaded assembly room waits to one day.

People who aren't called go home. Those who do get put on a jury serve only for one trial. In Los Angeles County, about a third of those who report actually serve, and trials last an average of three or four days.

The so-called ``one day, one trial'' system makes it even more critical that all those summoned actually go, said Munsterman.

Aided by free publicity from TV programs focusing on trials and juries as well as celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey who serve willingly and famously court officials insist they're making progress. Three-quarters of the people in a summer survey by the American Bar Association disagreed with the notion that jury service is a hardship.

Then there's the tiny, reluctant bunch in the Long Beach courtroom, and the thousands more who duck out of service and don't get caught.

``Everybody loves jury duty,'' Munsterman joked, ``but not this week.''

Professional jurers, made of law school interns and retirees is the solution. The average person cannot afford to miss work for s everal months while they sit on the Scott Peterson or OJ trial.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:54:31 AM EST
jury duty is fun if you get a good case. at least mine was interesting
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:54:35 AM EST
As long as I have an employer that will pay for a week or two of JD I like it. It's kind of like a mini-vacation. A chance to observe and maybe participate in the justice system without being in trouble.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:56:04 AM EST
I'd like to serve.

Especially on a gun related case

can you say "Jury Nullification"?
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:57:05 AM EST

Originally Posted By California_Kid:
As long as I have an employer that will pay for a week or two of JD I like it.


that's a big "IF."

Most people dont have that luxurey. I get put on a long trial I would lose my house. I cant pay the mortgage on the $5.00 a day they pay jurers.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:57:42 AM EST
What the State Governments should do is put more pressure on employers to give better compensation to potetional jurors. I mean if your a single mother or someone else who cant afford to take even 1 day off work or you wont make your utilities bill what are you to do

??
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:58:05 AM EST
I have never been asked or summoned for jury duty. I am 27 years old. Never have gotten any kind of jury summons.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 5:58:52 AM EST
I've only been once. I got pulled into the courtroom to interview for jury in a huge murder trial (of course). Interview went something like this...

Will swear not to speak about this case to anybody?: Yes
Where do you work?: The largest newspaper in Connecticut
The murder weapon was a firearm did you know that?: Yes
Do you have any preconcieved notions about firearms?: Yes, I love them

You're dismissed.


Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:00:03 AM EST

Originally Posted By Jfor:
I have never been asked or summoned for jury duty. I am 27 years old. Never have gotten any kind of jury summons.



You are registered to vote, aren't you? Doesn't that put you in the jury pool?
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:02:19 AM EST
Yep been registered since I was 18. Registered the day I signed up for the selective service, signed my life away for 3 years to the Navy. All in one day.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:03:07 AM EST

Originally Posted By mikr:

Originally Posted By Jfor:
I have never been asked or summoned for jury duty. I am 27 years old. Never have gotten any kind of jury summons.



You are registered to vote, aren't you? Doesn't that put you in the jury pool?



I've been registered to vote since I was 20, and I only got called for the first time when I was 26. Sometimes, it takes a while.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:06:39 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/7/2004 6:08:43 AM EST by 82ndAbn]
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:08:33 AM EST
Different states pull lists from different places. In CT it's voter lists, DMV records, and unemployment if I remember correctly.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:11:18 AM EST
I have a lifetime pass on Jury Duty...

<­BR>

....

<­BR>


....

<­BR>


Former LEO No Prosecutor or Defense Atty in their right mind will let me sit on their jury.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:15:08 AM EST
Yikes, seems like I get called at least yearly, but never actually selected to serve in a panel.

Thankfully, as the stipend doesn't even cover lunch that day, much less any bills.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:16:42 AM EST

Originally Posted By nationwide:
I have a lifetime pass on Jury Duty...

....

....

Former LEO No Prosecutor or Defense Atty in their right mind will let me sit on their jury.



The criteria for sitting on a criminal or civil jury are 2 different things. I've heard that for Civil Trials LEO's are often seen as "good" jurors.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 6:36:48 AM EST
Called up for jury duty and went, as I think it's a duty, but after showing up and sitting there for abt
45 minutes, they said that we weren't needed, and sent home. Ah well......

I'm lucky, as my employer views this as a civic duty, and will pay me for sitting on a jury, just as if
I'm sitting in the office.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 7:24:44 AM EST

Originally Posted By nationwide:
I have a lifetime pass on Jury Duty...

Former LEO No Prosecutor or Defense Atty in their right mind will let me sit on their jury.



The last jury I served on had a former deputy sheriff and the wife of a current deputy sheriff both on the jury. One of my sons is also a current police officer.

The defendent was an accussed child molester that we found guilty and who was sent away for 13 years. (Should have been a lot longer.)
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 9:12:20 AM EST
I guess I've had it lucky. The two employers I've worked the longest with both paid for jury leave.

I used to get a summons a couple of times a year. Until about 5yrs ago. That was when I was the last juror selected. We found the guy guilty of theft. Didn't get another summons until two months ago. It was for Municipal Court. Then about a week before the trial I got a letter saying the trial had been cancelled. Next day I got a summons for Dist. Court.

Guess I'm back in the pool again.

BTW, I think Colorado uses Driver's license as well as Voter Registration.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 9:49:10 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/7/2004 9:52:44 AM EST by palmer]

Originally Posted By nationwide:
I have a lifetime pass on Jury Duty...

Former LEO No Prosecutor or Defense Atty in their right mind will let me sit on their jury.





I just returned from my last day of Jury Duty on a att. murder case and I'm a former LEO. I too, thought they would pass me up. In the interview for Jury Duty, the lawyers were talking to each other and were looking at me, as if they were arguing over whether I should serve or not. Turns out I landed on this case, a very quick case.



The dirty f'ing savage defendant made his pregnant girlfriend drink bleach and stabbed her in the stomach.


Forgot to add, they also had a blood drive at the courthouse and I donated........again.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 9:52:17 AM EST

Originally Posted By palmer:
The dirty f'ing savage defendant made his pregnant girlfriend drink bleach and stabbed her in the stomach.



That is very disgusting. I'd rank that fella right up there with the Chechen terrorists.

Link Posted: 9/7/2004 9:57:37 AM EST
Where I work, you sign your jury duty check and hand it to them and they pay you just like you were at work. I've never had to do it , yet.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 10:10:12 AM EST

Originally Posted By einnor1040:
Where I work, you sign your jury duty check and hand it to them and they pay you just like you were at work. I've never had to do it , yet.



Diddo.....(I think I just cursed myself.)
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 11:56:33 AM EST
Here in Indiana they use several different means of criteria for jury duty. Drivers license's, registered voters, and property tax payers.
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 12:06:16 PM EST
Yay! I get jury duty instead of going shooting this Monday. Guess I won't celebrate the death of the AWB except from the federal jury pool.

Link Posted: 9/7/2004 12:24:07 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/7/2004 12:25:45 PM EST by Sweep]
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 12:29:58 PM EST
Link Posted: 9/7/2004 12:39:48 PM EST

Originally Posted By palmer:

Originally Posted By nationwide:
I have a lifetime pass on Jury Duty...

Former LEO No Prosecutor or Defense Atty in their right mind will let me sit on their jury.



I just returned from my last day of Jury Duty on a att. murder case and I'm a former LEO. I too, thought they would pass me up. In the interview for Jury Duty, the lawyers were talking to each other and were looking at me, as if they were arguing over whether I should serve or not. Turns out I landed on this case, a very quick case.

The dirty f'ing savage defendant made his pregnant girlfriend drink bleach and stabbed her in the stomach.

Forgot to add, they also had a blood drive at the courthouse and I donated........again.


Man, I proud of you, it people like you that keep this great nation going.

I too recently got a summons to jury in October, and I plan to go. The last time I served on jury, we sentenced(rightfully so he was guilty as sin) crack cocaine dealer to life in prison without the possibiltiy of parole because he was a 3rd striker. That my duty to society, putting away scum for life.
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