Opinion

Lack of jurors requires extra efforts by courts

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A problem with an insufficient number of jurors to conduct business in Cabell County courts apparently has not gone away, and overcoming it no doubt will require a more aggressive effort by officials.

The trouble was illustrated last week when only 19 people showed up for jury duty one day, missing by one potential juror the number needed to conduct a trial of a man charged with burglary. Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson, presiding over the case, said it was the first time in his 37 years on the bench that so few jurors showed up. The judge had issued summonses to 30 people in the jury pool.

The obvious short-term solution would be to summon more jurors for a trial, which Cabell County officials likely will do in the future. But that doesn’t mask the larger problem, one that Ferguson discussed on the day of the burglary trial and one that came up a couple of years ago when another shortage of jurors came to light. Many people simply are unwilling to serve as jurors, although it is their civic duty to do so — a duty that fulfills a crucial component of the nation’s criminal justice system.

Ferguson estimated the Cabell County Circuit Clerk’s office had sent notices to 350 people who may be called for duty. The judge said the county is “lucky if we have 60 to 65 people that even show up…

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