TUCSON – Ten thousand Pima County residents were called to jury duty in April. Four thousand were chosen to serve.
Ronda Lear once drove to downtown Tucson from Catalina when she got a jury summons. She wasn’t chosen but says it was inconvenient. “Because I came early in the morning and I ended up in the section that doesn’t get to go right away,” Lear said. “You wait through lunch until the end of the day, around 4 or 5 o’clock. So, yeah, it made for a long day, it wasn’t very fun.”
Another county resident, Lorri Klump, said she doesn’t mind serving. “I mean, I would never say I’m not going to do it. It’s kind of a duty, [is how] I look at it.”
Some residents have complained to the News 4 Tucson Investigators recently about certain aspects of getting called for jury duty. They complained about being paid nothing if not chosen to serve; about the 12 dollars they get paid per day if they are chosen; about the mileage reimbursement, typically 44 cents a mile depending on your home zip code. And they complained about the parking.
Jurors and those not selected can get discounted parking at the public works garage at 50 W. Alameda St., across the street from the courthouse. Instead of the regular rate of $8.00 per day, they pay $2.00 with validation, as do people with handicapped placards or decals.
“I think it’s intimidating for a lot of people to come downtown if they’re not used to it,” says Sally Digges, Pima County’s Assistant Jury Commissioner. “For other people, it’s having to put their regular life on hold. Childcare commitments, their job, things like that.”
Digges says once people get to the courthouse, many enjoy being part of the process. Some, however, say they can’t serve due to the type of work they do.
“We did have a gentleman who was a freelance embalmer and so he had to travel all over the state and he gets called at a moment’s notice and there’s a timeframe, a window in which he can get his work done, so he was not able to serve,” Digges said.
The embalmer didn’t serve because his job was deemed a legitimate work hardship. But one excuse that didn’t work was, you might say, out of this world.
“There was someone who said they’d been abducted by aliens and so they were therefore unable to serve. So that one probably was the most creative,” Digges said.
But jury duty is not to be taken lightly.
“Jury duty and jurors are what make the whole system work,” says Brick Storts. He’s been an attorney for 56 years.
“When you think about it,” Storts said, “the attorneys and the judge are nothing but functionaries of the court system. Without the jurors being there to pass judgment, and make the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt the innocence or guilt of somebody in a criminal case, the whole system wouldn’t work.”
Residents who are 75 or older can opt out of jury duty, but they certainly don’t have to. And, for any jurors whose trial lasts six days or longer, the Arizona Lengthy Trial Fund provides reimbursement for lost wages, of up to $300 a day.
If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.