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Idaho jury pool no-shows face contempt charges

Idaho jury pool no-shows face contempt charges
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LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - Eight northern Idaho residents who didn't show up for jury duty and then failed to appear after being summoned to explain their previous absence are facing potential contempt of court charges.

"I'm starting to feel ignored," said 2nd District Court Judge Jeff M. Brudie. "And that's not a good situation to have."

He said the eight will be given a third chance to appear in court to explain what happened to avoid a contempt charge, which carries a $500 fine and five days in jail.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that the eight prospective jurors didn't show up on Monday after being summoned with 30 others who failed to appear for a July 28 trial for a man charged with raping a 17-year-old girl.

The trial had to be postponed after only 42 potential jurors appeared.

"It was the worst jury response in my time on the bench - in my more than 30 years as a lawyer," Brudie said.

The 30 who appeared Monday were given a chance to explain why they didn't appear in July and to sign up for court dates in the fall.

"I want to apologize to you, the people of Idaho and the people of Nez Perce County for any problems (this caused)," said 67-year-old Dennis Hardin, who used a cane.

He said he'd recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and had trouble walking. Brudie excused Hardin and several others due to health problems.

Some of those who appeared Monday told Brudie the court notification system is confusing.

Jodine Alm said she called the court's notification system on the mandatory midweek date, and was told to call again a week later. That meant she missed the Sunday call-in that would have told her to be in court Monday.

Danielle Engle also said she only thought she needed to check at midweek.

"I did not hear anything about calling Sunday," she said.

Vernon Fester said he called Wednesday and thought the recording said to call again the following Wednesday.

"The message messed me up," Fester said.

Larry Gillispie said he wrote the call-in dates on his refrigerator.

"It was Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday," he said. "Then it was Sunday, and it caught me."

Brudie said he called 80 potential jurors for the rape trial because absentee rates have climbed in recent years. Pay for jurors has also been bumped up to $50 from $10 per day.

"Most people approach (jury duty) with dread," Brudie said, but added once they go through the process, "they find it enjoyable."

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune

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