Local News

Durham Judge Sends Message To People Who Did Not Report For Jury Duty

Posted April 14, 2004

— Some people do not take jury duty seriously. One judge said that was not acceptable, so he ordered the no-shows to appear in court Wednesday and explain why they did not report for duty.

Eighty-three prospective jurors were supposed to show up in a Durham courtroom Tuesday, but 36 people did not appear. Judge Abraham Jones ordered the no-shows to explain why. However, attorney Fred Battaglia said he did not like what the judge was doing.

"This is not right what we are doing here today," he said.

In a heated exchange with Jones, Battaglia argued jurors deserve to have counsel and a formal hearing. Battaglia accused Jones of trying to embarrass the no-shows by having to give an excuse in open court with media present, but Jones said he was just trying to send a message.

"I'm simply interested in them serving jury service when they receive a summons," Jones said.

Under Battaglia's objection, the men and women each gave an explanation privately at the bench. Larry Blancher thinks the judge's actions were perfectly valid.

"I had every intention of showing up the first time yesterday and just forgot," he said.

Jones could have found the no-shows in contempt and thrown them in jail. Although rare, he said he has done that before, but that did not happen Wednesday. Two jurors were excused Wednesday while five others will report to jury duty Thursday.

There is an explanation for all the no-shows. The trial court administrator said most of their summons were returned because they were sent to old addresses.

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