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People skipping jury duty causing trial difficulties in State District Court

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 6:55 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -What if you held a jury trial and no jurors showed up. People not showing up for jury duty is a growing problem in State Court in Calcasieu Parish.

The judges and district attorney are considering how to solve the problem:

They call it jury duty because it's a civic obligation citizens are supposed to do when called. That's if and when they are suitable for a particular court case.

But Judge Robert Wyatt said less than a quarter of the 350 or so summoned to court last week showed up.

“In the last few years the number of those showing up for jury duty has been declining. Unfortunately, last Monday, I would say it hit a critical number. We had 72 people show up for jury duty,” said Wyatt.

They had a difficult time getting jurors for a murder trial and robbery trial.

Some called are excused for legitimate reasons

But it seems far too many just don’t want the inconvenience. That’s disappointing to Calcasieu D.A. John DeRosier.

“I’m certain if they were charged with criminal activity, they would like to think that there are reasonable, logical, rational Americans to judge their cases when their time comes,” said DeRosier.

And it appears they may be forced to address the issue.

“If we can’t get enough people to fill our juries, we’re going to have to limit those excuses and change the way that we subpoena people. In the very near future, the subpoena’s going to change and there may be some contempt issues if you don’t show up when you get those subpoenaes,” said Wyatt.

Most judges and the district attorney say that people who do serve are glad they did because they better understand the system and for some, it inspires a new career path.

Depending on the outcome of some bills proposed in the legislature, even more juries may be needed in the future.

Now, civil cases with $50,000 or less at issue are handled by judges.

There’s a proposal to lower that threshold to $5000 which would likely result in many more juries.

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