Midland Judges Take Steps to Enforce Jury Duty

Published 06/07 2014 04:33PM

Updated 06/07 2014 04:42PM

Central Jury Room, Midland County, image from permianbasin360.com
Central Jury Room, Midland County, image from permianbasin360.com
MIDLAND, TX -- Midland County judges began enforcing jury duty on Friday as they called 244 citizens to court to explain why they had not shown up for their civic duty.

“A lot of people have the perception that a jury summon is a suggestion,” said Midland County Judge Kyle Peeler. “It’s not. It is an order.”

According to Ross Bush, the district clerk, the county sends out more than 700 jury duty request every week. Only about 150 people are actually showing up to court.

“We’re trying to give them every opportunity to explain why they didn’t show up that day,” Peeler said about Friday’s hearings.

“Sometimes life happens. Sometimes there is a decent excuse,” said Midland resident Michael Arnold, who forgot to come to jury duty. “Sometimes people don't want to come.”

On Friday, Midlanders had a change to explain their absence from jury duty. Some of them were punished.

“We have the right to fine up to $1,000 or to actually put them in jail for a period up to 180 days,” Peeler said.

The ones that didn't show up Friday will get another letter asking them to come to court. But the letter will be specially delivered.

“That order will be hand delivered by a constable or a deputy sheriff,” Peeler said.

And if they still fail to show up to court, the judges will get a special order “telling the sheriff to go out and physically pick that person up and bring them to court,” Peeler said.

County judges said the situation is a burden to tax payer dollars. Every time the court does not have enough jurors they have to delay trials, ask witnesses to hold and tell the jurors that did show up to come back.

“For the life of me I don’t understand why that's such a burden,” Peeler said. “It's quite frankly one of the fundamental constitutional rights that makes our nation different than any other nation in the world.”

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