News 5 Investigates

Apr 16, 2013 10:42 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Jury duty "no shows" in El Paso County

Most of us have received a summons at some point in time to appear in court for jury duty.

It's your civic duty but many will admit that it's time consuming and no fun. While most show up, News 5 uncovers thousands of residents in El Paso County are skipping out.

Every week, hundreds of residents are summoned to appear at the El Paso County Judicial Complex for jury duty.

"The worst part is showing up and sitting there for three hours and then not getting called," Corrine Huffman said.

Either way, it's your responsibility to make an appearance or be formally excused by the court system.

"It's the peoples system," 4th Judicial District Chief Judge Gilbert Martinez said. "It's their jury system. It's not mine and it's not the people who work in this building---it's your system. The only way it works is when you have jurors and citizens who step up to the plate."

Stepping up to the plate isn't always the case.

Between January 2013 and March 2013, more than 1,300 citizens summoned for jury duty failed to appear in court.

Between January 2010 and December 2012, more than 10,000 failed to show up.

News 5 asked, "When people fail to show up for jury duty, how does this impact the court process?"

"In jurisdictions where they do not show up, you may have to have a trial be continued and that obviously slows down the process," Martinez said.

Fortunately, the County says they have not had to deal with that problem thus far, and hope it never reaches that point.

News 5 asked, "If I receive a summons in the mail and don't show up, what could happen to me?"

"We would issue a warrant for your arrest," Martinez said. "If you don't appear, it's a class three misdemeanor."

News 5 asked, "Out of curiousity, have you ever issued a warrant for anyone who hasn't show up for jury duty?"

"I have not," Martinez said.

In the last three years, only three warrants have been issued, but who's to say that won't change in the near future.

"We're constantly trying to come up with better ways to track these things," jury commissioner Dennis McKinney said.

McKinney admits there's always room for improvement, but says the failure to appear rate in El Paso County is one of the lowest in the nation. Instead, he believes the bigger problem is with summons that go undelivered.

"Some of the summons don't go to people because the forwarding address they had is expired," he said. "Those are the majority of summons' we get back."

McKinney provided News 5 with data showing more than 61,000 jury summons were "undelivered" and sent back to El Paso County since 2010. This is a considerably larger rate compared to jury duty "no shows".

"You're going to have people moving so we'll never get a 100-percent response," McKinney added.

For now, the County says they are doing the best they can to keep compliance rates high and issues a plea to public for your continued cooperation.

"Please respond to the summons," McKinney said. "If you get a summons, don't blow it off."

Currently, El Paso County says if you fail to respond to a summons the first time, they'll mail you a second summons giving you another opportunity to appear.

If you fail to show up both times, a warrant could be issued for your arrest.

In Pueblo County, 92,034 citizens were summoned for jury duty between January 2010 and January 2013. 4,173 people failed to show up. 

Between January 1, 2013 and March 6, 2013, 6,387 citizens have been summoned for jury duty. Out of that pool, 334 have failed to show up. 

Warrants are not issued in Pueblo County for those who fail to appear in court on a jury summons. 

 

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