Truant jurors lectured on responsibility Judge Beck summons absentees to court

November 24, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Eight Carroll County residents who failed to show up for jury duty Oct. 30 were summoned to Circuit Court last week to explain why.

Court officials said absenteeism is occasionally a problem among the 115 prospective jurors selected monthly from the county's registered voters. When eight people skipped duty the same day, jeopardizing a theft and battery trial, Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. wanted to hear their excuses.

Before calling each truant juror to the bench, Beck repeated the importance of civic responsibility and briefly explained citizens' rights and responsibilities.

"I reminded them that the military draft is no longer required and that even voting is an option, but jury duty is required," Beck said. "The criminal justice system would fail without jurors."

Truant jurors, he noted, can face up to three days in jail and a $100 fine.

Four of the eight jurors summoned to Wednesday's show-cause hearings -- Joanie M. Dunn of Westminster, Blane E. Hinchey of Westminster, George A. Arnold of Taneytown and Brian K. Furches of Westminster -- told Beck that they misunderstood a recorded message jurors are required to call for instructions.

Renee M. Danzy of Sykesville told the judge she was absent because she went to New York for a relative's funeral.

"I'm sure jury duty wasn't the most important thing in her life at that moment," Beck said.

Janice M. Hobart of Westminster said she missed jury duty because her father was ill and that she forgot to listen to the message.

Jeanette M. Heagy of Sykesville said she was ill and visited her doctor, "certainly a valid excuse," the judge said.

Beck accepted the word of each juror.

"We don't want to beat anyone over the head about this," he said. "They all had reasonable explanations and were excused for good cause."

Clarence E. Harry of Westminster took the time to write Beck a letter of apology even before appearing in court.

"The only defense I have is human error," Harry wrote, noting that he had served on jury duty before and that he hoped he would have an opportunity to do so again.

"It was just a mistake, and it will never happen again," he wrote.

Jury Commissioner June Cashman bends over backward to work with prospective jurors, asking them to list dates when they have scheduling conflicts, Beck said.

Cashman said that until recently, jurors did not always have to call in every day.

"If we knew we would not be having a jury trial for several days, I would put that on the recorded message," she said.

After she discussed the issue with Beck, Cashman said, a new policy was put into effect.

"I now record a new message each day, and jurors are instructed to call in each evening," she said. "That should end any confusion."

Pub Date: 11/24/96

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