AUBURN — A judge on Wednesday admonished eight men and women for missing jury duty half a dozen times.
Many said they were single parents who worked. Some said it was due to medical problems. Most said they had no excuse and apologized.
After taking the bench, Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy read aloud from the standard notification letter sent to prospective jurors, noting their appearance was required and that, according to Maine law, they could be found in contempt of court and fined or jailed if they didn't show good cause for not complying.
She called the AWOL jurors to the bench one by one, each time reading out the docket numbers from their criminal files having been found in contempt of court.
Kennedy asked how many of the four men and four women had read the letter. Most hands rose.
She asked what part of the letter they didn't understand. Silence.
“It is incredibly distressing when people don't show up for jury duty,” she said. If everyone were to fail to appear for jury duty, no defendants could have a constitutionally guaranteed trial by their peers, she said.
A pool of prospective jurors is culled from a random selection of driver's licenses. Of those, a final list is picked from those who return questionnaires showing they qualify to sit on a jury.
One woman told Kennedy she was a single working mother who was losing her home and was due in court the next day on the foreclosure.
“I guess I have a lot going on,” she said. “It just slipped my mind.”
Kennedy cited the six times since October the woman had been called for jury duty.
Another woman said she had changed addresses recently and was “shocked” to learn she had been summoned for jury duty.
“I would love to go,” the woman said.
One woman exclaimed: “Wow!” after she was told she'd ignored six letters.
One of the men said he'd had trouble with his vehicle.
Another man said he worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and was newly divorced.
Kennedy asked whether he would call his employer if he couldn't make it to work.
The man said he would.
She asked if he would call his mother if he couldn't meet her at a scheduled time.
He said he would.
A couple of the eight people had notified the court once, but couldn't explain their other numerous absences.
One woman produced a letter from her doctor.
The judge excused her.
The others were told they would be put on the September juror list and had better show up.
One woman whose name was called Wednesday was absent again.
Kennedy ordered a warrant issued for the woman's arrest.
According to state law, names of prospective jurors and those assigned to jury duty are confidential.