KOMO News is up with a well-reported Associated Press story about a jury management clerk at the Cowlitz County Superior Court who may have single-handedly nullified more than three months' worth of jury trials. Beginning in July, the employee, Sue Anderson, a 15-year veteran of the court, started removing the names of potential jurors who were 80-years-old or older, in an apparent effort to save money. And since people are guaranteed the right to a trial before a "jury of their peers," by not including octogenarian peers in that pool she assured that defendants weren't given the painstaking deliberation that only the aged can provide.
Because a larger portion of people 80-years-old or older are either dead or unable to serve on juries, many jury summons letters to them are returned. The savings Anderson sought came from simply eliminating these bothersome names from the list.
The woman's supervisor, Superior Court Clerk Roni Booth, is locked in a tight race for reelection with former CCSC employee, Beverly Little. She is pinning the blame squarely on Anderson, saying she will likely be punished. But considering that most mid-level employees are not nearly as concerned with cutting costs as their superiors are, it seems a tad odd that Anderson took it completely upon herself to be Miss Thrifty.
"She made a decision that she shouldn't have made without coming to me and talking with me about it. And I can't explain why that happened," Booth said. "She just didn't think she was doing anything wrong. She's devastated."
A total of 3,000 names were removed from a list of about 82,000 county residents.
In the meantime, defense lawyers in at least five felony jury trials requested that the trials be delayed until new jury pools are established. The delayed court proceedings include the murder trial of Jeremiah Joshua Park, who stands accused of stabbing 28-year-old Joseph Chase Gemar to death in February.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Michelle Shaffer says that there are a total of 352 adult felony cases scheduled for trial between now and April.
Whether the tampering will induce a wave of appeals appears to be unknown. But considering that old people are the most frequent victims of telephone and internet scams, an accused criminal might want as many of them as possible on a jury to give his or her lawyer a more easily swayable audience.
Either way, there are soon to be a lot more old folks getting jury summons letters and ruining their plans for all-day "The Price is Right" marathons.