Crackdown launched on absent jurors

Jurors summoned to court to explain reasons for non-appearance

Sixteen prospective jurors who did not show up for duty at Mohave County Superior Court were summoned to the court last week and fined between $500 and $2,500 by Judge Charles W. Gurtler Jr., the court's presiding judge.

All of them had failed to appear for a March 19 jury call and all had avoided jury duty on at least one previous occasion, according to a court release. Some had skipped jury duty as many as 10 times.

Gurtler quizzed each person about their reasons for not serving and said that jury service is a "constitutional duty." There's also a practical element involved - contacting potential jurors for service takes time and money.

When people don't show up it increases the effort and expense and can delay trials.

"It's affecting our ability to actually conduct jury trials," said Gurtler. "That's not fair to the litigants, especially a criminal defendant who is sitting in jail."

People who receive a jury summons and know they'll have difficulty serving should contact the court quickly to arrange a postponement or to be permanently removed from the juror list.

"We try to give our jurors as much notice as possible," said Virlynn Tinnell, the jury commissioner and clerk of court. "If they contact us as soon as they get a summons, we are usually able to accommodate their work and vacation schedules.

"If they need to be excused for medical or financial reasons, it gives us more time ... to get the documentation we need to grant a permanent excusal."

Of the 16 fined jurors, several of them could've had their service deferred if they had contacted her office, Tinnell said.