No-show jurors get civics lesson in Knox County

By Stephen Betts | Jan 07, 2019

Rockland — Nine Knox County residents who have repeatedly failed to show up for jury duty got a civics lesson and directive from a judge on Friday afternoon, Jan. 4.

For the first time since 2004 in Knox County, contempt hearings were held for people accused of failing to perform jury service.

The Knox County court has experienced increasing difficulty in selecting juries because people are failing to report.

Eleven people were issued summonses to appear in court for the contempt hearing. One person failed to show and another did not attend because they were in jail.

But for the nine who appeared, Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee required each person to stand before him and explain why they had failed to report.

Nearly every person told Mallonee that they had not received the notices to appear in court for jury selection, saying the Postal Service was sending their mail to older addresses.

One woman said she had just gotten a job and had to choose between the job and jury service. She also said her husband had done jury service recently.

Mallonee said it was important for people to serve on juries to make sure that citizens of Knox County can receive justice. He cited the Bill of Rights, which restricts the rights of government.

He then pointed out that the government asks people to do two things -- to vote and to serve on juries.

He ordered each of the nine to appear in court Feb. 4 for jury selection. He said if they are unable to for a good reason, they must notify the court and get excused. The judge could have fined or jailed the no-show jurors if he had found them in contempt of court.

In February 2018, three trials were unable to be held because of the inability to have enough people in the jury pool. The judicial department issued summonses to 150 people, directing them to report for jury duty this week. Ninety of those were excused for a variety of reasons, leaving 60 in the jury pool.

But 22 of those 60 failed to appear, leaving only 38.

Criminal juries in Maine require 12 people and there are often one or two alternates selected.

A criminal case against a man in Knox County accused of possessing child pornography was dismissed in April because he was unable to get a speedy trial. He had been charged in 2013 and twice the court could not select a jury because of the lack of potential jurors.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Laura Libby-Campbell | Jan 07, 2019 18:32

In response to Jeffrey Zurkow:  Isn't it a requirement to update your Drivers License with every address change so mail, such as Jury Selection i.e., can reach its proper owner?

Posted by: Jeffrey L Zurkow | Jan 07, 2019 12:12

The Court sends jury notices by ordinary mail, not Registered or Certified mail, and thus cannot know if those notices reached their addressees.  Potential jurors deserve a bit more respect than to be threatened with Contempt charges over mis-addressed mail that they never received.  As a recent participant (I did receive the notice and show up), I submit that people would be less reluctant if the system were more efficient, more appreciative and less coercive.  Judge Mallonnee made us all feel welcome; the rest of the system would do well to follow his example.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jan 07, 2019 09:20

The government ask two things, to vote and serve on the jury. Imagine if they just ask for tax money.

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