MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 4, 2012

Lack of jurors crimps courts

Many summonses get no results

(Continued)

— Jury turnout issues

Of the 110 jurors who showed up for the fall trial docket, after excusals, just 89 remained. That was only enough to select a jury for one of two murder trials.

Part of the problem, Moore said, is murder trials often require more potential jurors. For the trial of Dondray Fowler, convicted of the 2010 Arrowhead Mall shooting, Moore and Fowler’s attorneys selected 15 people, including three alternates, from more than 60 potential jurors.

When the winter docket starts Feb. 25, Moore said at least two murder trials will be included. Also, each docket will last three weeks in 2013, instead of the two-week dockets the court had this year.

“We’ve got to have more jurors,” he said. “If 550 summons were sent out, and we got 110 back, then we need to send out 1,000 next year.”

Sexton said she planned to send 750 summons in 2013 to fit the longer docket.

“If Larry wants more jurors, he needs to tell us,” Sexton said. “Whatever led to there not being enough jurors this time was a fluke occurrence, because we’ve always sent out 550 and it has always been enough.”

Potential remedies

There was one thing all parties agreed on: Fines or jail time for “jury dodgers” would not be an effective fix.

“That’s not going to work out,” Sexton said. “For anyone.”

No area counties fine for not appearing for jury duty. Tulsa County’s jury information website says “failure to appear or notify the court may result in your being fined $100 for contempt of court,” but its jury clerk said she couldn’t remember the last time that happened.

Norman said: “We could fine them, I guess. Or put them in jail.

“But the jail’s full, and the last thing we need is more people owing money.”

Sexton said while they would like to not face 20 percent response to summons again, fines and law enforcement is not the answer.

“Can you imagine what would happen if we had deputies out chasing people who didn’t show up for jury duty?” Sexton said. “People would be outraged, and rightfully so, that deputies were out doing that instead of fighting crime.”

Norman said the answer to all the issues may be increased communication inside the courthouse.

Moore was upset with only completing two felony trials, but Norman said part of why that happened was scheduling two murder trials for the same day.

“If it takes 60 jurors to get a jury, then you would need 120 to get two juries if they both start the same day,” he said. “I don’t know why the DA’s office scheduled it that way.

“Maybe we need to change our policy with regard to talking to Larry.”

Moore said longer terms will “help immensely.”

“We hate it as much as anyone that there are trials we can’t complete that we’re ready for,” he said. “The accused deserve a speedy trial, and so do the victims and the victim’s families. Whatever we can do to get more of that, we need to.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

Juror totals

Court clerk office reports of juror summonses along with the reported average response to those summonses.

County    Summonses    Responses

Muskogee County    550    110

Cherokee County    300    100-120

Wagoner County    350    90-110

McIntosh County    250    185

Tulsa County    675    300

Oklahoma County    900    350

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