Jury Apathy

A study shows that a low percentage of potential jurors in Texas respond to jury summons.

Jury Coordinator Scharlette Thompson is currently preparing jury summons for six different jury panels. Thompson has to send up to 300 notices for each case in order get the 80 people she needs for one panel. "I'm going to say, out of 250 about 30 percent are willing to serve. We do have a lot that come back for the medical and age exemption."

Which are valid excuses. Incomplete 911 addresses and people moving also contribute to the problem. For all the rest, you can be assume they're being ignored.

District Judge Campbell Cox agrees. "I have heard of other counties getting as low a response as 14%."

Even though ignoring a jury's summons is punishable by a fine of $100 to $1000, few people are ever fined. "At a judicial conference I attended that question was asked--how many people, out of a large room of judges, how many enforce such and I think we saw one hand go up," said Cox.

Most counties depend on people like Reverend Larry Wade to do their civic duty. Numerous times he's served on juries, including grand juries. "We make a contribution to the judicial system and we try to add what little we can to the process and see if we can make it better."

This time the Reverend was granted a summons delay so he could fill a business commitment. The same courtesy is given to other potential jurors, if they would only ask.