NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Have you been served a summons for jury duty but didn't show up?
Newport News deputies are knocking on the doors to serve warrants for those who have not shown up for their required jury duty.
Officials say of 102 people who were summoned to serve on Jury Panels A and B, only 37 showed up. That's only 36%.
“The whole judicial system revolves around that civic commitment,” stated Sheriff Gabe Morgan. “Every accused has a right to be heard, and they have the right to be heard by a jury of their peers. Those peers are those who live in the community.”
Those who are served warrants must appear in court on Monday, June 21. They must explain to the judge why they didn’t respond to the jury duty summons.
A judge authorized deputies to leave the show cause summonses at the residence if the person could not be personally served.
Jury duty notices are usually mailed from the Newport News Sheriff’s Office, which advises citizens of the date and time to appear. According to the document, failure to report for jury service “is subject to a finding of contempt and a fine.”
Jury trials were halted for much of 2020 due to COVID-19, but in-person trials resumed in December.
“Not showing up for jury duty can affect public safety. If there aren’t enough people to sit on a jury, a trial could be delayed or the accused may be set free. At the end of the day, everyone deserves to be heard and have a fair trial. Juries allow that to happen,” Sheriff Morgan stressed.
Just because someone is chosen to report for jury duty does not mean they’ll actually be selected. Also, there are valid reasons why an individual can’t do it. Those include a parent who’s a full-time childcare provider, a breastfeeding mother, someone over the age of 70 and even some first responders.
But Sheriff Morgan wants everyone to know they can’t just ignore the summons.
“When you get a summons, if you can’t appear for whatever reason, communicate that to us. Communicate that to the court,” he urged. “And if it’s appropriate, you’ll be excused and you can avoid all of this embarrassment, really, of having to come and explain why you ignored the summons. You can’t just ignore the summons.”