Jury duty woes continue in Columbus

Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 5:20 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - For some time now, court officials in Muscogee county say they are having a problem getting people to show up for jury duty.

Now they’re letting you know, if you’re summoned and don’t show, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

“If you want to know what happens in your community, and if you want the criminals to be punished, then you need to go and speak your words,” says Columbus resident Valeria Alexander.

However, according to the Chattahoochee judicial circuit’s chief judge Art smith, over the last few years, more and more people are not showing up.

“At the height of the covid pandemic, the non-response rate was as high as 51%. In other words, 51 Out of 100 people subpoenaed did not respond,” says Smith.

The judge says you can find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you don’t show up or respond.

”A person summoned who does not appear can be cited for contempt, and could have a court date set,“ says Smith.

A fate this week’s potential jury pool could face.

“I sent out 600, we had 203 to come in,” says Smith.

If that 600 sounds high, the Muscogee County’s Jury Manager Sonya Kibble says there’s a reason for that.

“Right after covid, I started sending out three times as many as we needed for a certain week,” says Kibble.

That’s because folks weren’t showing up during the pandemic, and it was starting to be slim pickings trying to divvy up jurors between three judges for trial weeks, especially when you factor in hardships, and excused reasons why people can’t serve.

Sometimes the wrong address is on file, and people don’t get the summons to appear for jury duty.

Kibble says the key to fixing the issue is communication.

“Just come in and if you have a problem, we will work with you.”

When summoned for jury duty, you are paid for your time.

In Muscogee county that rate is 25 dollars a day.

Court officials say they think it could be higher, but that’s something residents will have to take up with city council.