Getting a first-ever notice for potential jury service

For most of adult life, I have been exempt from jury duty for one legal reason or another. No automatic exemption exists now but no attorney wants the reporter who covers courts anywhere near a jury room.
Jury Summons

For the first time in my life, I’ve received the first notice of a potential call for jury duty.

Many states exempt those who report news from getting anywhere near a jury. The last thing most governments don’t want is a reporter inside a jury room during deliberations of a trial.

Virginia, of course, is not one of those states. However, localities like Arlington County, our home for 23 years until we moved to Floyd County in 2004, exempted both journalists and political appointees from jury duty, so no jury summons ever showed up for me.

Wife Amy, however, got called, not only for regular jury duty, but also for federal ones and “fake juries” used by court consultants to test defense arguments.

Illinois, our home for 12 years, didn’t allow journalists on juries. Neither did the District of Columbia.

I was told a few years ago that whenever my name showed up on a potential jury list for Floyd County, it was pulled because I cover trials in Circuit Court for the Floyd Press.

Jury questionnaires, however, come from the Virginia Capitol in Richmond and one arrived at the beginning of this week.

But Virginia also exempts senior citizens age 70 or older, if one checks a box on the questionnaire, so I checked the box before mailing the form in this week.

I have no problem serving on a jury but Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom says he would automatically flag me for deletion during a jury call, and he expects any defense attorney would do the same. I asked a couple of attorneys this week and their answer was the same: “No way am I letting you in a jury room on any case I’m handling.”

Why should I waste the court’s time to be called? I will be there anyway to cover the trial for the paper.

Amy is more than willing to serve, but she has yet to get even a questionnaire in the 18 years that we have lived in Floyd County. Given how often she was called in Arlington County during out 23 years there, we’re both surprised.

Studies say that “no shows” are increasing for most courts in the United States. Judges consider failures to report by a serious crime and usually issue warrants for no shows.

Jury trials are rare in Floyd County but those called often have jurors who don’t show. They soon appear in court to explain why and most judges do not accept the excuses. A citation for contempt in court is not fun.

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