Report: 1 of 4 people skip jury duty

Action could be taken for future no-shows

Author: April Molina, Investigative Reporter, amolina@ksat.com
Published On: Nov 09 2012 09:54:25 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 09 2012 10:43:16 PM CST
SAN ANTONIO -

According to a recent survey, the percentage of citizens who blow off jury duty in Bexar County is 25 percent -- and they face no consequences.

According to figures, last year, 248,316 people were summoned to jury duty in Bexar County.

A total 26.94 percent of citizens carried out their civic duty, 29.64 percent were excused or postponed, 18.76 percent of the cards were returned to sender, and 24.65 percent didn't show up or respond.

"If they ignore it, for one, there's a penalty anywhere from $100 to a $1,000," said Bexar County bailiff Julieta Schulze.

Although the county can fine people, Schulze admitted that currently they don't.

"Because currently, we have enough jurors to supply the courts," Schulze said.

Jury analyst, Greg Hurley said the fact that there is no recourse for ditching jury duty in Bexar County is concerning.

"For each summons that's sent that's not returned, there really is a real cost for the jurisdictions that are absorbed," Hurley said.

Taxpayer dollars are wasted, but even more significant is the potential for a skewed jury pool.

Hurley said sometimes a low failure to appear rate equates to a jury panel that's not a fair cross section of the community.

"People in lower income neighborhoods tend to fail to appear at a much higher rate than people in affluent neighborhoods," Hurley said.

Reaction varied from jurors who actually appeared for their summons.

"If you enjoy some of the freedoms of this country then you should be obligated to do the things that are necessary but not always desirable to do. Serving on a jury is one of those things. I think it's a small price to pay for having a jury system," juror Jack Whitworth said.

"I wish I knew it. I wish I knew that there wasn't a consequence before I came. I'd be in bed right now," said juror Jason Wallace.

As a result of the Defenders' request for statistics involving jurors, Schulze said she is reconsidering taking action.

"You need to show up to jury duty or there might be consequences and you never know when that can be," Schulze said.

Currently, jury no-shows in Dallas end up in jury court and Schulze said she is considering doing that in Bexar County.