Failure to show lands Carter jurors in hot water

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF

   Three potential jurors found themselves in hot water Tuesday after they failed to report for jury duty Oct. 17 in Carter County Criminal Court.
   Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown wrote letters to Elizabeth Richardson, 118 Log Cabin Road; Donna Roberts, 155 Whitson Drive; Karen Stevens, 110 Carterview Drive; Randy Watkins, 110 E. Mill St.; and Berlin Perry, 12-S Watauga Ave., summonsing them into Criminal Court Tuesday for contempt after their failure to appear in October.
   The letter stated: "Your panel reported for jury service on Oct. 17, 2001. If the clerk's records are correct, you were not present and you were not excused from jury duty. You are required to appear in Criminal Court on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2001, at the Carter County Courthouse Annex, Elizabethton, 9 a.m., to explain your failure to report for jury duty."
   Robinson presented a doctor's excuse stating that she was physically unable to serve. She was excused, Judge Brown said, because "I thought she was justified."
   The judge suggested that Roberts, Stevens and Watkins "go over to the Trustee's Office and donate Carter County $50 instead of my citing them for contempt, which would save them about $350-$400 in court costs," Judge Brown said.
   The three are required to file a receipt with the clerk's office showing they have made the donation or be back in Criminal Court Dec. 17. Roberts made her $50 donation Wednesday morning.
   A show cause order was issued for Perry, whose name was transposed on the notification and who may not have received it, according to the clerk's office.
   "We had a much worse problem in Washington County," Judge Brown said. "When the jurors hear somebody else's name called and they don't show up, then they start thinking everybody can get by with it. That's just not the way it is anymore.
   "Some of the jurors just forgot," Brown said, "but I told them the last time I got a speeding ticket, I just forgot. I was coming back from West Tennessee and wasn't paying any attention.
   "Just because you forget to watch the speedometer doesn't cut it," he said.
   "I told them my son turned 18 last month and he has to file with Selective Service. If you forget, you can be prosecuted," he said.
   Jurors who fail to report can be charged with contempt of court, fined up to $50 (plus court costs), and incarcerated for up to 10 days.