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Richmond Circuit Court Cracking Down on Jurors Who Don’t Report

In 2016, just 60 show-cause orders were issued in Richmond’s Circuit Court for jurors who didn’t report for duty, according to data compiled by the clerk’s office. The following year, it nearly tripled to 173 orders. This year, the court has issued 290, a pace that by the end of the year would double the amount from 2017. The number of show-cause orders from 2018 wasn’t provided.

Chesterfield County appears to be the only other large jurisdiction in the region that has dealt with similar problems. More than 370 Chesterfield residents failed to report for service during a 13-month period from 2017 to early 2018, according to a story that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in February 2018.

The issue, in Richmond, wasn’t so severe then, according to Maj. Roger Moss, who oversees court services for the Richmond Sheriff’s Office. Jury service is run by the sheriff in Richmond, rather than as a function of the clerk, like in other localities. In 2017, 451 prospective Richmond jurors failed to appear, which was considered average. But last year, the sheriff’s office said that number swelled to 1,090, which averages to more than 90 missing jurors per month. The jury office increased the number of jurors called by 15% as the number of absences continued to rise.

On Nov. 1, four other would-be jurors told the judge they had forgotten, and were also added back to the pool of potential jurors next month. Six others also failed to appear on Nov. 1 and were found in contempt of court and fined $100. By law, the fine could range from $50 to $200….

“It’s not an issue that happens often but when it does, it has a huge impact, not just for that one case,” McEachin said.

A continuance could conflict with the constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial, which, in Virginia, typically expires five months after a preliminary hearing…

“So if you have to continue a case like that, you have a defendant who remains locked up before having his or her day in court,” he said. “Not to mention months and months of preparation down the drain, plus all the wasted resources to have the witnesses for the commonwealth and defense subpoenaed to be there that particular day.” – Richmond Times Dispatch (Read full article here.)