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Morrison serves 14 absent jurors on contempt charge

Morrison serves 14 absent jurors on contempt charge
Posted: Mar 4, 2015
Comments: 0
AMITE—A 21st Judicial District Court Judge has ordered more than a dozen summoned jurors who failed to appear for jury duty to come to court next month and explain why they did not.

Judge Robert Morrison, chief judge of the 21st Judicial District Court, has issued 14 summons for individuals who were ordered to appear for jury duty February 3 but did not do so, contrary to their jury summons.

According to subpoena documents filed at the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court’s office, Morrison has ordered the 14 individuals to appear in court on April 9 to “show cause why you should not be held in contempt of court for failing to appear for jury service.” The summons, which were signed by the Judge on Feb. 23, indicate each of the 14 individuals were “subpeonaed and properly served to appear” for jury duty on Feb. 3.

Late last year, the judges of the 21st Judicial District Court announced they would begin having the sheriffs of the tri-parish area begin physically serving subpoenas for jury duty, rather than sending them in the mail, which has been the practice for many years. The judges said the system was being “plagued” by low turn out for jury duty in recent years, and the new system, which was implemented in January, was designed to insure jurors were properly notified of their upcoming service. At least one murder trial last year produced so few prospective jurors that that the judge “was forced to employ a practice permitted by law whereby the bailiffs were sent into the community to force other persons to come to court as prospective jurors.”

Morrison said, “In addition to the problem of not having sufficient numbers of prospective jurors to conduct jury trials, the judges adopted the present policy feeling that it was unfair to those persons who did appear for jury service not to require attendance by all who were served for this function.”

Summoned to appear on April 9 to answer for failing to appear on Morrison's Feb. 3 criminal jury were:
*Roosevelt Alexander of Tickfaw
*Justin M. Beauvais of Tickfaw
*Regina M. Bedwell of Ponchatoula
*Raven D. Cardona of Independence
*Amanda R. Coleman of Ponchatoula
*Mary L. Coombs of Loranger
*Andrew T. Corkern of Kentwood
*Baron J. Gibson of Hammond
*Ruth L. Gros of Ponchatoula
*Debra J. Morris of Kentwood
*Julie L. Pagan of Ponchatoula
*Bryan K. Sanders of Hammond
*Pauline D. Franklin of Independence
*Linell Wells of Hammond

Morrison said the court allows persons who are served with jury subpeonas the option of contacting the judge’s office or the Clerk of Court to seek permanent exemption from jury duty, as allowed by law. Among the reasons acceptable for exclusion from jury service are:
*Individuals 70 years old or older;
*Individuals who have served on a jury in the prior two years;
*Individuals who have a permanent physical condition that prevents them from serving as jurors.

Anyone who has a specific scheduling conflict or temporary health issue for a particular jury week in which summoned can seek a postponement until a subsequent jury trial within the six month period of the summons, if a postponement can be arranged through the Clerk’s office, Morrison said.

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