Nobody likes jury duty: most criminal and civil cases involve some moron doing something they shouldn’t have–and you end up have to waste time due to said moron. Nonetheless, having a jury trial is a cornerstone of our justice system. It’s also useful in the ‘smaller’ cases, since the ability of prosecutors to say “I have a jury next door waiting to hear this case” often results in plea settlements.
Unfortunately, Suffolk county, MA has a jury pool problem:
Suffolk County, facing a years-long surge in violent crime and a spike in trials, will run out of prospective jurors by October, potentially throwing the legal system in Boston and some surrounding communities into disarray, state officials warned last week.
Without jurors, the court system will be unable to hold trials, said Pamela J. Wood, the state’s jury commissioner. And without trials, judges will be pressured to grant bail to defendants charged with murder, rape, and other violent crimes, she said.
“This is a public safety crisis,” Wood said in an interview in her office. She and other officials said the predicament is unprecedented in Massachusetts.
On the civil side, courts will be forced to delay medical malpractice suits in the county, which sees more such cases than any other in Massachusetts.
The real problem is only 25% of those summoned actually show up (which mirrors my recent experience) in Suffolk County:
Last year, only a quarter of those summoned showed up for jury duty in Suffolk County, a rate far below other counties. Wood blamed the high number of students in Boston, who often skip jury duty, although they could face fines up to $2,000 and criminal charges. She also cited the influx of residents who are not US citizens or do not speak English, who are exempt from service….
This year, Conley has called for nine grand juries to investigate gun crimes and homicides, up from seven in 2006 and six in 2005. Each grand jury needs 23 jurors, but because so few people respond to summonses, Wood said she must send out 800 notices for each panel.
I’m not going to lie: jury duty is a pain in the ass. But it’s something we need, and it’s far easier to do than, let’s say, getting shot at Iraq. Show up for yours.