MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 4, 2012

Lack of jurors crimps courts

Many summonses get no results

(Continued)

According to data from area court clerks, it’s not unusual to see turnout of less than 50 percent of jury summonses sent.

“In fact, it’s standard,” Muskogee County Court Clerk Paula Sexton said. “We plan on it. Absolutely no one is going to send out a certain number of jury summons and get exactly that number back.”

The perception may be, she said, that if you send out 550 summonses and get only 110 back, that means there are 440 jury dodgers roaming around.

Not so.

“There are a variety of exemptions people can claim before we even get to the point of showing up for jury duty,” she said. “And there are other reasons for what might look like low turnout, too.”

Sexton said the jury pool is pulled from residents of a specific county who have either an Oklahoma driver’s license or a valid state of Oklahoma identification card.

“What can happen is a name is pulled and that person no longer lives in this county,” she said. “Maybe they’ve moved to a different county or state. Well, it’s not that they don’t want to appear for jury duty, it’s that we can’t have them on a jury, anyway.”

Another reason could be that potential jurors live so close to a county line that they receive a jury summons from Muskogee County despite actually living in a neighboring county.

It’s rare, Sexton said, that someone blows off jury duty.

“Serving on a jury is a civic duty that people who come and do it say it changed their lives,” she said. “People come and serve and I’ll talk to them when it’s over and they’ll say:   ‘This changed my view of the justice system. This made me believe in what is done here.’”

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