MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 4, 2012

Lack of jurors crimps courts

Many summonses get no results

— Three days before the end of Muskogee County District Court’s last jury trial docket of 2012, all available jurors were sent home. Only one trial set to begin that week — a two-defendant murder trial — saw a verdict.

There were multiple reasons jury members were sent home and no new cases were heard, but one reason stood out:

Out of 550 jury summonses sent out to Muskogee County residents, only 110 jurors reported to the courthouse Oct. 12 for jury duty.

When jury selection began in the first-degree felony murder trial of Dawaan Norwood and Schiavone Anderson, the prosecutor and defense attorney shared doubts the low number of jurors would allow them to pick a jury for that trial.

“We got it,” said defense attorney Larry Vickers. “By the skin of our teeth.”

Norwood and Anderson were convicted after almost three days of jury selection and more than two days of testimony. However, another murder trial set to begin jury selection that same day never got off the ground.

“We called the attorney for that defendant on Monday and said, ‘Look, there’s no way we can get a jury today, we’ll have to let you know tomorrow what it looks like,’” said District Judge Mike Norman.

By Wednesday, it became clear that trial would never get started. Later that day, Norman sent the remainder of the jury pool home because of what the district attorney’s office deemed a “misunderstanding.”

As a result, just two felony trials were completed — though 26 defendants entered guilty pleas as part of plea bargains — and 32 cases were stricken to the coming Winter 2013 jury docket.

“It’s disappointing for us when that happens,” said Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore. “We’d like to get more trials completed, and we know the public does too.”

Low response is typical

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