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Midland Takes First Step in Enforcing Jury Duty

The Midland County judges began enforcing jury duty Friday, as they called 244 citizens to court to explain why they had not shown up for their civic duty.
The Midland County judges began enforcing jury duty Friday, as they called 244 citizens to court to explain why they had not shown up for their civic duty.

“A lot of people have the perception that a jury summon is a suggestion,” said Midland County Judge Kyle Peeler. “It’s not, it is an order.”

According to Ross Bush, the district clerk, the county sends out more than 700 jury duty request every week. Only about 150 are actually showing up to court.

“We're trying to give them every opportunity to explain why they didn't show up that day,” Peeler said about Friday’s hearings.

And finally, the court room was filled with potential jurors.

“Sometimes life happens. Sometimes there is a decent excuse sometimes people don't want to come,” said Midland resident Michael Arnold, who forgot to come to jury duty.

On Friday, Midlanders got a change to give an explanation, but they also got punished.

“We have the right to fine up to $1,000 or to actually put them in jail for a period up to 180 days,” Peeler said.

The ones that didn't show up Friday will get another letter asking them to come to court. But the letter will be specially delivered.

“That order will be hand delivered by a constable or a deputy sheriff,” Peeler said.

And if they still fail to show up to court, the judges will get a special order “telling the sheriff to go out and physically pick that person up and bring them to court,” Peeler said.

In addition to the extra manpower, county judges say this is costing a huge amount of tax payer dollars. Every time the court does not have enough jurors they have to delay trials, ask witnesses to hold and tell the jurors that did show up, to come back.

“For the life of me I don’t understand why that's such a burden,” Peeler said. “When it's quite frankly, one of the fundamental constitutional rights that makes our nation different than any other nation in the world.”

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