Summoned: Part One

Summoned: Part One

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It's never been the most appealing civic duty, but it's still a civic duty.

Serving on a panel with 11 strangers, deciding the fate of the justice system, it's what you have to do as a citizen. 

"People need to take it serious," said Forrest County Circuit Clerk Lou Ellen Adams.

In her years as clerk, Adams has seen just how important a jury can be. Under state law, anyone registered to vote, can be summoned. It's a completely random process, typically done by computers. While the odds are slim you'll even sit in a jury box, if you happen to be chosen, you'll get a summons. 

"If you get a jury summons, you need to think if it were me or my family member, I would want good jurors," said Adams.

Even though a summons means you're expected to show up, the next stop for some of those letters is the trash. For others, they're pushed aside, thanks in large part to a common perception of jury duty being more of a jury chore. Adams says because only a handful of people actually get to wear a juror tag, folks are often times unfamiliar and therefore uneasy about showing up for jury selection. 

"Most people are glad they came, after they come," said Adams. "They don't want to come in the beginning. It's the unknown. Everyone fears the unknown."

"You have that duty to do that one service. That's all your country really asks of you," said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

Hood has spent plenty of time in courtrooms and says while you most likely won't be selected, putting any fears of the unknown aside can have just as much of an impact as being selected. 

"Just by being there and showing up, that makes cases plead. Our criminal justice system would not work if jurors don't show up," said Hood.

Putting together a jury can often times be as much of a challenge as convincing folks to be on one. Hood says given the responsibility put before jurors, if a jury pool isn't big enough, the court runs the risk of having irresponsible jurors. It takes the responsible ones to make the system work.

"You get a group of 12 people. Their common sense and consensus is usually going to render the right verdict," said Hood.

It's a verdict that starts with a summons and a duty.  

"It's one of our rights to serve on the jury and have a voice in our judicial system," said Adams.