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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

12 potential jurors skip selection

Jury duty is a civic obligation that many in a democratic society consider a privilege.

But a handful of Fulton County residents who failed to show up for jury selection nearly found themselves in contempt of court.

Twelve jurors, out of a jury pool of 38, were not present for jury selection in a civil trial Nov. 16 at the Fulton County Courthouse.

Circuit Court Judge John Harkey ordered the Fulton County Sheriff's Department to track down the 12 absentee jurors and bring them to the courthouse.

"It was pretty wild," said Fulton County chief jailer Jo Cunningham. It took several hours to contact the absentee jurors, she said.

Several of the absentee jurors said they had to go to work, Cunningham said, but they were informed the consequences of not going to the courthouse would be severe.

According to Judge Harkey's Office, anyone who failed to show up for jury duty could have been held in contempt of court.

A person held in contempt of court can be jailed and/or fined.

Fulton County deputy Clerk Vickie Bishop said one juror said he forgot about the trial, while others claimed they thought it was being held on a different date.

At least one juror had a reasonable excuse for not showing up for jury selection. He has been deceased for eight years.

"I felt pretty bad when I called his (deceased juror) house," said Cunningham.

She said Fulton County residents need to be conscientious about jury duty in the future.

"Judge Harkey will be really upset if something like this happens again," Cunningham said.

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