That Wasn’t a Request . . .

Jury duty is perhaps our most misunderstood civic responsibility. Rarely do we hear about jurors who were happy to serve or those who learned from their service. Instead, the public is inundated with stories about jurors getting stuck in line at the courthouse for hours, being sequestered for months during deliberations, and even those who were fired for missing work to serve on a jury panel. While the large majority of those tales are untrue, they contribute heavily to the prevailing (albeit wrong-headed) sentiment that serving on a jury isn’t worth the trouble.

Count Mansfield, Texas, resident Jose Bocanegra among those who now appreciate the gravity of jury duty after the 20-year-old’s recent stint in a Tarrant County jail for skipping out on his jury summons five straight times. Bocanegra told reporters that he decided to shirk his responsibility because the 20-mile drive from his home was “out of the way.”

The recalcitrant Bocanegra first missed jury duty by claiming that he was a convicted felon. He wasn’t. When the court found out the truth, Bocanegra was graciously allowed to reschedule. That’s when he used Tarrant County’s online registration juror registration system to claim that he was caring for an invalid. He wasn’t. The court responded by providing Bocanegra with a new report date, but he didn’t show up. He missed two more scheduled dates before Judge Wayne Salvant had him jailed for five days – the same number of days he’d skipped out on his civic duty. At the end of his jail stay, Bocanegra offered the court his thanks for getting him “straightened out.”

While some might argue that five days in jail is a bit harsh for missing jury duty, the fact is that the law is the law. Perhaps more interesting here is that the court bent over backwards to accommodate someone who is, frankly, a liar. Judges are far more sympathetic to juror concerns and issues than you might think, but they aren’t pushovers. The sentence here was appropriate, but only time will tell if Bocanegra is really “straightened out.” 


 

Posted: 12/11/2012 12:00:00 AM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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