Teen arrested for skipping jury duty

April 29, 2010 2:33:28 PM PDT
A local teenager who did not show up for jury duty learned a tough lesson. Not only did the judge send federal marshals after her, but they also took her into custody at her college, and now, she could be held in contempt of court. The teen's lawyer did not want her speaking to Eyewitness News before she goes to court Thursday to answer to the judge, but we did speak with her father who says parents need to know this could very easily happen to their child.

Darrell Gloston is taking the day off from work Thursday to do something he never imagined he would do -- take his 19-year-old daughter to federal court.

"They treated my daughter like she was a serial killer, and I don't understand that at all," he said.

Federal marshals showed up and arrested his daughter Kelsey while she was attending a college class Tuesday and brought her before Federal Judge David Hittner.

"They handcuffed her and put shackles around her waist and shackles around her feet in front of all her classmates," Gloston said.

What shocked Gloston more than what happened, was why.

"I found out that she missed jury duty," he said.

His daughter had skipped jury duty after being seated on a jury the day before. When the clerk called to find out why she was a no show, Gloston admits his daughter lost her cool and hung up on the clerk.

"She just doesn't understand what was going on," Gloston said.

Gloston says with final exams looming, his daughter thought she needed to be in school and didn't understand that a federal clerk is someone you do not hang up on.

"I think she was frustrated," he said.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says that was a huge mistake.

"It's basically being disrespectful to the judge's family," he said.

Androphy says Judge Hittner takes jury duty seriously and will go after any juror who does not.

"I know Judge Hittner has remanded jurors before for lack of attendance," Androphy said.

In fact, he could even charge her with a crime.

"If you don't show up for jury duty, he has the power to put you in jail for six months for failing to obey a court order," Androphy explained.

Gloston says he will do all he can to help his daughter.

He said, "She's on the president's list at school. She don't have no moving violations. She's never been to jail."

Gloston is hoping an apology to the judge will keep Kelsey out of the federal courthouse unless it is to serve on a jury. She is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Statistics show in Houston's federal court, about 6 percent of jurors don't respond when summoned. That number is 28 percent for Harris County courts.

There are a number of cases in which an individual would not be required to serve jury duty.

Exemptions

The Court may exempt you from service if you are:

  • In active service of the armed forces of the United States.
  • A member of a fire or police department.
  • An elected official actively engaged in official duties.

Excuses

The Court may excuse you from jury service if you are:

  • Not employed outside the home, having active care and custody of a child under the age of ten whose health or safety would be jeopardized by their absence for jury service; or a person who is essential to the care of the aged or infirm persons and who is not employed outside the home.
  • Have served as a grand or petit juror in federal court within the past two years.
  • Over seventy years of age.
  • A federal law enforcement agent (like agents for Postal, FBI, Customs).
  • A member of a volunteer safety organization and who works in an official capacity without compensation (fire fighters, rescue squads or ambulance crews).
  • Someone for whom the jury service would cause undue hardship or extreme inconvenience. Medical excuses require a precise doctor's statement.

Postponements

The Court may postpone your jury service. A request for postponement must show specifically why the delay is unavoidable.


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