Two dozen Bibb County residents who failed to show up for jury duty Monday will be receiving orders to appear in court to explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms announced from the bench Monday that there was a juror shortage that prevented a trial from beginning.
“This is a problem we’ve had to deal with for years, and it’s time that we find a solution to deal with it,” he said. “People complain about the criminal justice system not moving along quickly. It can’t move at all because we don’t have jurors.”
Superior Court Clerk Erica Woodford said of 145 jury summonses mailed, 52 people showed up Monday morning. Of those, 13 people were excused or exempted from service, leaving only 39 available for jury selection.
Deputies were dispatched Monday afternoon to track down about 40 of the missing jurors scattered across the county.
Despite their efforts, just 45 jurors were in the pool by late Monday afternoon. At least two additional people were located, but they were excused from service.
Sheriff David Davis said deputies found that some of the people on the jury list were in jail or were hospitalized. At some addresses, deputies found family members who said the prospective juror hadn’t lived there in years. One house was vacant.
Some people said they had exemptions that would keep them from serving.
Davis said deputies will continue their search Tuesday.
Jury selection for the trial of Keith Anthony Dozier, the final defendant in the 2012 embezzlement slaying of 58-year-old Gail Spencer, was delayed Monday because of the shortage. Dozier, 25, is charged with murder, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and theft.
Spencer, a legal secretary at Pinkston & Associates on Vineville Avenue, was held hostage at her Stinsonville Road home Oct. 5, 2012, and killed as part of a $1.3 million embezzlement scheme.
Jurors have been instructed to return to the courthouse at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
A minimum of 30 jurors are needed for selection in a criminal trial -- and that’s after certain cuts are already made, said Chief Judge Tripp Self.
Primary caregivers for children under 6 or for incapacitated adults, and residents over 70 who request a pass are eligible for an excuse, Self said.
Summoned past residents who no longer live in the county and felons whose rights have not been restored automatically are excluded, he said.
Others likely to be sent home are people whose service would cause an undue hardship and those who have life experiences that would prevent them from being unbiased.
Self said he’s noticed a marked, steady decline in jury service compliance since 2008.
“People are just not showing up,” he said.
Self said the Macon Judicial Circuit is in the process of drafting a written policy for addressing jurors who don’t show up.
“We are careening toward a more compulsory system,” he said.
Self said Monday’s attendance rate is “unacceptable.”
“We need a broad representation of the community, not a small sliver,” he said. “With more people involved in the process, it’s going to be a better process.”
Prospective jurors who fail to appear can be charged with contempt of court and be subject to a fine and/or time in jail.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.