NewsChannel 10 Investigates: Jury duty "no shows" - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

NewsChannel 10 Investigates: Jury duty "no shows"

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AMARILLO, TX- For years, thousands of residents in Potter County have not been showing up for jury duty and getting away with it.

In the end, every law abiding citizen pays the price because as more people fail to show up, the pool of jurors shrinks. The effect---you could be called to jury duty more often.

Jury duty is your civic duty which most people will agree is no fun.

"The worst part is having to wait," resident Eric Martinez said. "You just sit and wait until they call you or tell you that you can go."

While the majority of people either show up or get exempt, we found out others were just skipping out.

"We say that we have about a third that respond (to a summons), a third that are exempt and a third that don't show," Potter County district clerk Caroline Woodburn said.

The news of people not showing up doesn't sit well with the folks who give up their day to sit in a jury room.

"If I can go down there and do it, so can they," resident Cody Cowden said. "I'm retired so if I can go up and go down there, they can go down there."

Woodburn says in 2010, there were 3,341 summoned residents who never showed up.

Because of changes in staff at the courthouse, she said 2011 statistics weren't immediately available. However, she estimates the numbers would be similar to the data collected from the prior year.

"If people have the decency to show up, it's only fair that the ones who don't show up get fined over it," Martinez said.

Woodburn says the real problem isn't with "no shows," but rather with the number of jury summons getting returned to the courthouse.

"People move back and forth all the time," Woodburn said.

It's a theory she believes is responsible for a large portion of the more than 17,000 jury summons letters that have gone undelivered.

"I really believe we don't have that many actual people that do not go to jury duty," Woodburn said. "I think that they either moved or didn't receive their jury summons."

For those who have slid under the radar, they've walked away penalty free.

In Texas, there hasn't been any major crackdown of violators since 1995.

In Potter County, warrants haven't been sent out in 15 years.

However, if the problem progresses, issuing warrants is a topic now being discussed.

"I know that there is one judge who is considering this," Woodburn said. "We were waiting until after the summer was over to look at our jury numbers and look at our chronic offenders."

Despite warrants not being issued at this time, residents who fail to appear in court could face fines of up to $1,000.

As for Randall County, NewsChannel 10 has been contacting the district clerks office since August.

Our numerous requests for data have been unsuccessful.

Thursday afternoon, district court clerk Rochelle Neeley said the "jury person" has not been able to get the data for us because they "don't have updated records."

PLEASE NOTE: NewsChannel 10, nor any of its affiliates encourage residents to ignore a jury summons. Although we exposed a problem which some may call a "loophole" in the system, we want to warn residents there are consequences for failing to appear. As previously stated, you are subject to a fine and upon a judge's request, you could have a warrant issued for your arrest.