Originally created 03/30/03

More than 40 shirk jury duty summons, then fail to appear during hearing to explain why



ATHENS, Ga. - Only three of more than 40 no-show jurors appeared in a Clarke County Superior Court courtroom Friday to explain why they didn't report for duty earlier this month - and two of them were late.

One claimed she had moved and didn't receive her original summons.

Superior Court Judge Steve Jones frowned and shook his head at the turnout.

"What can you do?" he asked. "There's not much recourse left."

He said he probably will issue arrest orders for the jurors who didn't show up or call his office by Friday. The orders are a civil matter, but the judge could order the jurors to pay fines, serve jail time or perform community service.

At least 11 of the errant jurors received letters from the judge, hand-delivered by a sheriff's deputy. The rest of the letters were left at the jurors' last-known addresses, though Judge Jones said he gave them some credit because they might not have received the letter.

Judge Jones ordered the people to court Friday morning after he was forced to call off trials two weeks ago for lack of jurors. It's not the first time would-be jurors have failed to show up, but it's the worst instance, Judge Jones said.

"It's getting worse, I think, and I don't know what's causing it," he said of juror absences. "I'm hoping there's a reason."

Eligible jurors are put into a pool of names when they register to vote, or now, when they apply for a driver's license, Judge Jones said.

Some jurors are conscientious, but others just aren't, he said.

"We had a juror in another court here who had moved, but he still drove up from Columbia, S.C., to serve," Judge Jones said. "And I bet you some of the people who didn't show up today live less than two miles from the courthouse."

What will happen to the three who showed up Friday?

They will have jury duty April 14 - no fine, no community service, no jail time.

"That's all I want; I want them to serve," Judge Jones said. "And you may not even get picked."