On Friday afternoon, 75 out of the nearly 300 people summoned for a hearing with a judge explained the reason behind their absence from jury duty on Feb. 20.
According to McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble, 650 people were originally summoned to participate in jury pools. 494 of those people were supposed to report, but only 113 people showed up to participate. This delayed the start of at least one jury trial.
Gimble said 363 people were sent notices to appear before the judge for a show cause hearing. Out of that amount, 45 people called the District Clerk's Office before the hearing to explain their absence and reschedule and 29 people from those summoned are over 70 years of age, which qualifies as an exemption from serving on a jury.
Most of those who attended the hearing with McLennan County 54th District Court Judge Matt Johnson told him they didn't receive the jury summons in the mail.
"A majority of those people verified it was the same address. They just didn't get the original one. I hope they didn't lie to the judge but it's a lot easier to say you didn't receive it than admit that you ignored it," Gimble said.
From those present at the hearing, 52 of them were able to reschedule their jury duty date. Four of them were disqualified because they don't live in McLennan County anymore.
Bobby Gill, who said he has lived in Limestone County for six years, was one of them.
"I believe I didn't receive the first summons, but I did receive this one two hours prior this hearing, so it was a big surprise," Gill said.
He said the second summons went to his old address, where a family member currently resides.
"I think it's a big inconvenience because the system they rely on apparently does not coordinate with the postal service. They said I was still registered to vote in McLennan County," Gill said.
Gimble said the voter registration list is one of the sources the county uses for prospective jurors. In addition, he said the database is only updated once a year.
Other disqualifications included 12 summoned locals who were convicted of felonies.
Reginald Hutchinson, who was convicted of a felony for forgery, said this is the first time he had to be in a show of cause hearing.
"I just told him I didn't get the summons and I was disqualified," Hutchinson said.
Other disqualifications included people not being able to write and read English or having a medical exemption. One of them was a college student.
"I would say the most common theme though wasn't anyone of those excuses, was not taking the time to notify the court that you had one of those to claim, so we didn't know that they had a valid excuse," Gimble said.
The more than 200 people who didn't show up for the hearing will get a writ of attachment, which is the equivalent of a warrant. This means sheriff deputies will go to the houses of those who did not attend the hearing and bring them to the judge. They could face between $100 and $1,000 fine for contempt of court.
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