Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

November 1, 2012

Jury duty about to get serious

Deputies may be picking up jurors for no-show

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Planning on ignoring a district court jury summons?

Doing so could find you winning a trip to the courthouse in the back of a Navarro County  Deputy Sheriffs’ patrol car, complete with a stop at the county jail.

It’s a problem that isn’t new, but it isn’t getting any better. In fact, it seems to have gotten worse, according to District Judge James Lagomarsino.

Lagomarsino said a jury summons sent out to 300 potential jurors this week for a sexual assault trial found only 65 people answering the call — far short of the number required to seat a panel of 12 jurors and an alternate after attorney strikes and excuses for service.

“It’s a problem we’ve had for a long time,” Lagomarsino said.

The judge said that generally around 50 to 70 jury summons sent out are returned by the post office for various reasons  — obviously, he says, those folks have an excuse for not showing.

“The individuals that don’t show up where you don’t get a (postal) return it’s hard to know if they forgot about it, or got it and said ‘I’m not going up there’ ... it’s so hard to know.”

So what the judge has done is prepare for the next jury call set for Nov. 13 is reach out to Sheriff Les Cotten for help. The sheriff is ready to do so.

Lagomarsino said he’ll consider sending deputies to pick up prospective jurors should not enough of them show up for the summons.

“That’s one of the solutions,” Lagomarsino said. “It’s kind of an extreme measure, but at what point do you just sit there and say ‘Well, we can’t have a trail again because not enough people showed up.’”

Cotten had not seen Lagomarsino’s letter when the Daily Sun sought comment from him about the possibility of pressing deputies into service. But he’s on board with the idea.

“I can sure do it,” Cotten said. “I’ve been trying to get them to do it for two or three years.”

Cotten said El Paso County had adopted a similar stance on no-shows for jury duty by sending deputies to pick them up. He said Dallas County was considering it as well.

“If they didn’t have a valid excuse for not showing up for jury duty, they spend 24 hours in jail plus a fine,” Cotten said.

Will it work?

“It will get their attention,” Cotten said. “It’s kinda like voting and taxes  — it’s part of the free system.”

Lagomarsino said he hasn’t decided for sure if he’ll have deputies go pick up no-shows, but he’s not ruling it out, either.

“I’ll have enough deputies to go pick them up in one day and have them in court,” Cotten said. “They’ll get a free ride in the sheriff’s car.

“But, they’ll have to walk home.”



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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at belcher@corsicanadailysun.com . Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com