Summoned Pt. 2 - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Summoned Pt. 2

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -  When you get a jury summons in the mail, if your next thought is how to get out of it, you're not alone. In fact, you're in the majority. After all, a jury summons is opened with as much enthusiasm as a cable or electric bill. With that summons though, comes responsibility. 

"They are expected to be here on the given day," said Forrest County Circuit Clerk Lou Ellen Adams.  

It's a responsibility Attorney General Jim Hood said shouldn't be trashed. 

"With all the rights that we have as Americans, that's one duty that we have, to serve as a juror," said Hood. 

While the chances are slim, Hood says anyone who does make it to the jury box should take it on with a sense of devotion. In Mississippi, jurors are paid anywhere between $25 to $40 a day. It all depends on a county's rate which is set by its board of supervisors. With jury duty not known for its generous pay, Forrest County Circuit Clerk Lou Ellen Adams says most excuses to get out of it are work related. 

"I understand that it's inconvenient so we try to work with them on that basis, but most people, once they've served are glad they did," said Adams. "They understand the process better."

There are a handful of legal excuses like if you're over age 65, have served in the same courtroom within the last two years or have a medial condition. Being a convicted felon will rule you out automatically. Even with the legal ones, Hood says if folks spent as much time investing in the process as they did trying to figure out how to get out of it, folks would realize what's at stake.

"Jury selection actually works. I'll take a jury's decision any day," said Hood.

It takes a jury pool of responsible strangers to get to that point. Not showing up can cost you. State law makes it a civil contempt misdemeanor offense which could hit you with a $500 fine and three days in prison. It's judge's discretion whether to apply the law and most don't. However, Hood says don't expect to get off scot-free. 

"Often times what judges do is give you community service that would commence with how long that service as a juror would have been," said Hood..

So for a three day trail, expect three days of community service or being called before the bench.

"The judge is going to call you in there and humiliate you pretty much, at least that much for people who don't show up," said Hood.

With being sequestered often the biggest concern from prospective jurors, Adams says that rarely happens. If it does, you'll know ahead of time. For the most part, it's just a few days, fulfilling a civic duty. 

Copyright 2014 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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