Reluctant juror: I live in a gang neighbourhood
A man who failed to turn up for jury service because he claimed he feared being shot by gangsters was reprimanded by a judge yesterday.
The unemployed man, who is aged in his 60s but cannot be identified by law, was supposed to turn up to Supreme Court on Monday where a jury was being selected for a trial.
When he failed to show up, the police were instructed by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons to find him and bring him before her to explain himself.
The man showed up yesterday afternoon, and told the judge: “I sent a letter saying why I shouldn’t appear six months ago. Then I sent another, but it seems they read the letter and didn’t understand it.
“I live in the 42nd area and people get shot every other week up there. I don’t want to make myself a target.”
When the judge questioned him, he said he never got a reply to his letter to the Chief Justice. Mrs Justice Simmons established through further questions that this was because he never wrote his mailing address on the letter.
Although the juror argued that he wasn’t expecting a reply, since he had made his position clear, the judge told him that that was not the way things worked.
“Not every case involves shooting or gang warfare. There can be a case that involves fraud or someone who lives in an area that has nothing to do with gang activity,” she pointed out.
She went on to tell the juror that he would be given the opportunity, before being selected for a trial, to raise any objections he has — and no prosecutor or defence lawyer would want a reluctant juror to serve.
“In your reason for not coming, you made a wrong assumption about what cases might be on. It was a wrong assumption to make that every case involves 42nd Street or a gang. It’s a wrong assumption to just tell the Chief Justice you weren’t turning up,” chided the judge.
“As a citizen of this Country you don’t have the right to sidestep the process for being a jury member. You have to play by the rules.”
Mrs Justice Simmons asked the man if he had any money with him, and pointed out that he had the power to fine him up to $100 for failing to show up.
However, she then told him: “I am going to show you how fair a judge can be. I’m not going to fine you.”
Instead, she instructed him to send a fresh letter to the Chief Justice asking to be excused from service — and this time to include a return address.
“If you come back before the court because you didn’t show up, you will probably be fined or treated for contempt of court because you have had your warning,” she added.