A judge has instructed deputies to round up more than 200 potential jurors who didn’t show up Friday afternoon to explain why they didn’t show up for jury duty Feb. 20.
None of the 75 people who appeared in 54th State District Court on Friday were fined. However, those who didn’t show up Friday to explain why they did not previously show up for jury duty last month might be in for a different experience once deputies locate them.
Judge Matt Johnson ordered that writs of attachment be issued for 221 people, meaning sheriff’s deputies physically will bring them to court in coming weeks to explain their absences from jury duty and from the show-cause hearing.
Johnson instructed McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble to issue show-cause notices for the jury no-shows to come to court Friday. Gimble sent out 363 notices, but by the time some were returned for bad addresses and people used exemptions and disqualification to jury duty, 296 people should have been in Johnson’s court Friday afternoon.
Instead, only 75 people appeared to explain to the judge why they missed jury duty on Presidents Day.
Of those 75, the overwhelming majority said they did not receive their original jury summons, and the judge allowed them to reschedule their jury service for another date.
Among the others, 12 were disqualified for being felons, three used exemptions for being older than 70, four have moved to another county, two can not speak or write English adequately, one has medical issues and one is a full-time student.
Gimble said he started to question some of the stories after so many claimed they had not gotten their original jury summons but said they received their show-cause notices, often at the same address.
‘Hope they didn’t lie’
“I thought it was statistically outside the bounds of our normal experiences, even to the point where I question whether that was accurate,” Gimble said. “I hope they didn’t lie to the judge, but I guess it is easier to say you didn’t get your notice than say you just ignored it.”
Johnson decided to issue the show-cause orders after a near-record low turnout among potential jurors last month caused county officials to scramble to get enough people to serve as jurors.
After excuses, exemptions, disqualifications, rescheduling and bad addresses on the notices, only 110 potential jurors were left from which to select three state district court juries and one county court-at-law jury. That was out of 600 potential jurors.
Johnson, who said jury duty is a responsibility all citizens should take seriously, could have fined the no-shows between $100 and $1,000 if he found them in contempt.