No-show jurors called to court, fined
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County summoned about 30 people to court on Wednesday to explain why they haven’t showed for jury duty, with 12 ordered to pay fines of $25 or $50.
This proceeding isn’t for someone who failed to respond once, but for those who haven’t showed as many as seven times, President Judge Elizabeth Doyle told the group assembled in her courtroom.
An Altoona man accused of missing seven times, standing before the judge with his hands on hips, said he wasn’t aware of being called seven times.
Maybe he missed the notices, he said, when living at a different address between 2013 and 2016 and caring for an ill grandfather. If he received the others, the man said he would have canceled because no one is available to fill in for him at work.
“I remember getting the letter saying to come here today,” the man told the judge.
Doyle imposed a $50 fine and directed him to show up for jury selection on Sept. 17.
He wasn’t the only one naming work as a reason for not showing up.
A Martinsburg dairy farmer, accused of ignoring five summons to jury duty, told the judge that he is “always busy” and has little help.
“A lot of people are in the same situation,” Doyle responded.
When the judge asked him to attend one of four jury selection dates through the end of the year, the man hesitated to answer, so Doyle suggested a date in November.
“I got turkeys to kill in November,” the farmer said.
When she proposed a date in August, the farmer said he’d “probably be hauling hay.”
The judge said she would find it hard “to look at one occupation” and excuse potential jurors because of it. The man acknowledged her words and said he would try to make the August jury selection.
He also was ordered to pay a $25 fine.
While speaking to potential jurors, Doyle reminded each about the importance of jury duty and showing up when called. People are entitled to have their cases heard and judged by a jury of their peers, she said.
She also told potential jurors that their service often lasts one day.
“Just because you undergo the jury selection process doesn’t mean you’ll be selected for a case,” she said.
And those who have served on a jury, she told them, often find the experience to be valuable.
“It’s not always pleasant,” the judge admitted. “But it’s not called jury happiness. It’s called jury duty.”
A Hollidaysburg man, accused of failing to show three times, told the judge his wife served a few years ago and loved it. After suggesting that one of his notices might have gotten lost when he moved, he admitted to ignoring the other two. He said his job regularly takes him on the road.
To comply with the summons to appear Wednesday, the man said he left New Jersey in the early morning hours to be at the 8:30 a.m. proceeding.
When Jury Coordinator Vicki Pike asked if he could attend the Aug. 6 jury selection, the man said yes and apologized for his lack of compliance. He also had to pay a $25 fine.
A Duncansville man also apologized for not answering three jury summons.
“I don’t open my mail,” the man said.
The jury duty summons is a tri-folded letter-sized document with an American flag printed in color, along with capitalized red letters: “DO NOT DISCARD RESPONSE IS REQUIRED.”
The document also shows a reporting date and directs the recipient to answer a questionnaire that must be returned by mail.
“If I had known I was summoned, I would have been here,” the Duncansville man said.
He also got a $25 fine and a date to report in the future.
The judge opted against fines for some potential jurors who reported health-related ailments, financial problems and family obligations.
A man from Hollidaysburg, leaning against the courtroom podium, admitted to being in pain and expressed doubt about being able to sit through a jury trial.
“I’d be wasting the court’s time,” he said.
Doyle directed that his name to be removed from the list of potential jurors.
A Hollidaysburg woman accused of ignoring three jury duty summons recalled calling and getting excused from one of the requests. The other two might have arrived, she said, when she was caring for ill family members and had someone picking up her mail.
“Can we give you another date?” Doyle asked.
“Absolutely,” she responded. “It’s always something I wanted to do.”
Through the end of last year, Blair County depended on two elected jury commissioners to identify and summon potential jurors and to review requests to be excused from service. As of January, those jobs were abolished and the tasks were assigned to Pike, who, in March, took the newly created job of jury coordinator in the court administration office.
Pike compiled the list of jurors summoned Wednesday, which included 12 who didn’t show.
She’ll be responsible for preparing another summons, directing the no-show jurors to report on July 25 to the courthouse. The sheriff’s department will handle the delivery of those summons, Doyle said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.