Yeats: Don’t ignore jury call

A recent jury summons that drew less than 25 percent of the citizens summoned has officials with 118th District Court concerned, a concern that could eventually spell trouble for local residents who decide to ignore the call to serve.According to 118th District Judge Timothy Yeats, approximately 200 summons for jury duty were recently sent out, but only 47 people showed up for at the courthouse ready to serve.“I acknowledge a certain number of notices are returned because the addresses are bad or the individuals have moved,” Yeats said. “Some notices are also returned because with the prospective juror exercising valid statutory exemptions from jury service. However, the largest percentage of no-shows are people who simply ignored the jury summons.“Some might point out that it is summertime and people have vacations. Vacation excuses are something that can be addressed by the court. It is not an option, however, to simply ignore a jury summons because of other plans.”Yeats called the appearance rate of less than 25 percent “simply unacceptable.”“If an individual believes he or she has a legitimate excuse or exemption, that excuse or exemption can be addressed by the court on the day of jury selection,” Yeats said. “Our system of criminal and civil justice will not function if citizens do not respond to jury summons as is required by law.“I'm anticipating our next jury week in 118th District Court to be the week of July 9, which means jury summons will be sent out 10 days before the trial date. If we do not have enough jurors respond on the date of the trial, I will have the sheriff's office take the list of names and immediately bring to the court the jurors who did not respond.”Yeats said prospective jurors won't be off the hook if enough people show up to serve on the jury, however, as a low turnout could still spell trouble.“If we do have enough jurors but still experience an abysmal turnout, I will send notices to jurors who did not report for jury duty,” Yeats said firmly. “These jurors will be required to come to court and show cause why they should not be fined from $100 to $1,000 for ignoring their jury summons. If the potential jurors ignore this notice, the sheriff's office will locate them and bring them to the court.”Yeats said the necessity for citizens willing to serve the justice system is the very principle upon which the justice system is built.“I truly believe answering the call for jury service is the most important civic duty we have, other than voting,” he said. “The court will always try to work with potential jurors in regard to excuses or exemptions, however, the failure to some to acknowledge their jury summons has come to the point where it seriously affects the administration of justice in Howard County. I want to encourage everyone to take this important obligation seriously.”For more information on jury summons, contact Yeats' office at 432-264-2225.