Juror 222, also known as Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, plays the waiting game

March 07, 1995|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

After a day of waiting for his number to be called, juror 222 raised the same weary complaint muttered by countless others summoned to perform their civic duty.

"There's got to be a better way," said Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Maybe it was the book he was reading, "Being Digital," a study of the information age. Whatever the reason, the mayor said, with modern communications technology, people who are only minutes from the courthouse might be able to go about their work until needed in court.

"Some consideration should be given to a change in the process, particularly if people are reachable by e-mail or fax or phone," said Mr. Schmoke, a former prosecutor.

Marilyn Tokarski, deputy jury commissioner for the city Circuit Court, quickly shot down that idea.

"We can't sit and wait for somebody to come to court. It's not feasible," she said. "Who's going to make all these calls for people when they're needed in court?"

Mr. Schmoke said he started his day on jury duty with a round of hand-shaking before settling into his book. More than 200 pages later, at 4:26 p.m., he was dismissed.

And, as happened the last time he was on jury duty, in January 1994, he was not selected for any cases.

Through the day, he sat in the jury assembly room on the second floor of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, where the floor is covered in dingy tile and the plastic sheeting over a window droops at one corner.

"It's not a very inviting place," he said. "When you look at it, you can see why I want the state to take over the Circuit Court. We don't have the money.

In the afternoon, Mr. Schmoke was among 70 prospective jurors beckoned to Circuit Court Part 3. Two men charged with robbing a pizza deliverer were demanding a jury trial.

The mayor told Judge Ellen M. Heller that his son was robbed a few years ago and that all three lawyers in the case worked for him when he was Baltimore state's attorney. But he said he could judge the case fairly.

Another issue arose. The trial was scheduled to begin tomorrow and end Thursday, conflicting with his scheduled testimony before the General Assembly.

"During the legislative session, for me to be out of service for two days or more is something that I have not done the seven years I have been mayor, and I think that would cause a problem," he told the judge.

Judge Heller excused the mayor, but not without a gentle chiding.

"I would only say, Mr. Mayor, with great respect, that next time around you ask for your jury duty to be switched, because I know you know as well as I do how important it is for all of us to sit as jurors."

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