PARKER COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Parker County Judge Trey Loftin says residents are skipping out on Jury Duty, putting the county’s justice system in jeopardy.
“We need to find a way to get people to come to court,” Loftin said. “I don’t know if it’s people don’t care anymore, or because people aren’t paid enough to go to jury service. It’s a real challenge.”
Loftin is worried that the lack of interest in jury duty could mean the mishandling of high profile cases.
He’s no stranger to those. Loftin is handling the case of Jeffrey Maxwell, who is accused of kidnapping, torturing and sexually assaulting a woman in March.
Loftin would not say if that case would be impacted, but only 57 of the 150 residents summoned for his last jury trial bothered to show up.
“It’s your duty,” he said. “We are American citizens and that’s your duty. You have to do your part.”
Parker County residents who have shown up for jury duty say it’s too important to dodge.
“I was afraid I would go to jail if I didn’t,” said resident Heather Williams.
“It’s my duty,” resident Susannah Taylor said. “If you are going to register to vote, you need to go.”
Loftin said the issue has gotten bad enough that they may have to start arresting residents and fining them up to $1,000. But there’s a more friendly option: The county is considering paying jurors more money for their time.
“If we don’t have enough people to sit a jury then the judge has to declare mistrial,” Loftin said. “If we declare a mistrial, then that’s an appealable issue.”
Loftin said if a jury trial is postponed, it can cost taxpayers about $10,000. According to the state, the average jury trial in Texas lasts about three days.