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Jury duty no-shows come with costs

(SOURCE: KXXV) (SOURCE: KXXV)
MCLENNAN COUNTY, TX (KXXV) -

Hundreds of Central Texans in McLennan County ditched their obligation to participate in jury pools, and that action comes with costs for both the county and everyday people.

Jon Gimble is the McLennan County district clerk, and he said the number of no-shows for jury duty was something he hadn't seen in nearly three years.

The county official said 650 people were originally summoned to participate in jury pools, 494 of those people were supposed to report, but when it was all said and done - only 113 people showed up to participated.

"I'm sure if I polled the people that didn't show up  -- if I somehow got all 381 of those people to show up somewhere at once -- a fair number of them will say it was a rainy day or it was Presidents' Day," Gimble said. 

The district clerk said low participation rates by jurors has impacted the county in a number of ways.

"We've had to increase the number of jurors that we summon by about 15% to compensate for that," Gimble said. "If we had a better participation rate we could more closely summon the umber that we actually need to show up."

He said the problem with summoning more people than needed is that the county pays about $0.50 to mail out summons cards, and they mail out nine to ten thousand of those at least four times each year. 

Gimble said when people don't show up for jury duty, it also costs both the county and those who did show up man hours.

"It's unfair to the people who are showing up to have them sit through two trial groups when there should've been enough citizens to show up," he said. "We had to reuse all 133 jurors a second time, and we even had to move a trial from Monday to Tuesday."

 Tonda James was called to participate in jury pools on both Monday and Tuesday. 

"It's my patriotic duty... you gotta get involved," James said. "If I stay at home and gripe about the government, and I don't do my duty -- how are things going to get changed?"

James was not chosen for any juries, but she said she does not regret coming to participate in the jury pool.

"You gotta take care of responsibility and if you don't nothing gets done," James said. "The main thing is to help participate and change things in the world and make a difference."

Gimble said those who did not show up for the jury pool on Monday, can expect to receive a mailer soon, letting them know that they will have to come before Judge Matt Johnson to explain why they ditched jury duty. He also said skipping out on the civic duty could result in a fine ranging from $100-$1000.

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