A Bibb County murder trial has been postponed until April due to a “lack of juror participation.”
Bibb County deputies were sent to round up jurors Monday after fewer than a third of the 145 summoned showed up at the courthouse. By the end of the day, the pool still had just 45 jurors.
Jury selection had been set to begin Monday in the trial of 25-year-old Keith Anthony Dozier, the final defendant in the 2012 slaying of 58-year-old Gail Spencer.
Spencer, a legal secretary at Pinkston & Associates on Vineville Avenue, was held hostage at her Stinsonville Road home Oct. 5, 2012, then killed as part of a $1.3 million embezzlement scheme.
While on the bench Tuesday morning, Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms received an update of how many jurors were available for Dozier’s trial.
The number was still 45.
“That is an insufficient number,” Simms said. “That allows us far too little leeway for removing jurors for cause.”
Simms instructed the court clerk’s office to prepare “show cause” orders for jurors who failed to show up. The missing jurors will be required to come to court on a designated day to explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt.
According to clerk’s office records, 52 people reported for jury duty as scheduled Monday and 13 were excused from service. Another eight people reported during the day, but two were excused.
More than 100 jurors reported for duty on each of the last three Mondays. On Feb. 2, 118 jurors showed up, 204 came on Feb. 9 and 117 on Feb. 16.
A minimum of 30 jurors are needed to seat a jury of 12 for a criminal trial, but a much larger pool is needed to allow for the exemption of people who must be excused as a matter of law, those who have life experiences or biases disqualifying them from service and people who can request exemption because of their age or status as a caregiver.
During deputies’ search for missing jurors, they discovered that some of the people on the list were in jail or hospitalized, Sheriff David Davis said.
Some addresses weren’t up to date. One house was vacant.
Davis said some people said they had exemptions that would keep them from serving.
Chief Judge Tripp Self has said he’s noticed a marked, steady decline in jury-service compliance since 2008.
The Macon Judicial Circuit -- comprising Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties -- is drafting a written policy for addressing how to handle jurors who don’t show up.
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.