Too often, prospective jurors throw out their jury questionnaires. Others reply, but don’t show for jury duty. Some even bow out during trial. One federal judge has had enough, says the Detroit Free Press. Today, U.S. District Judge David Lawson is ordering five people to appear before him in court and explain — one at a time — why they failed to show for jury duty. It’s something judges rarely do. If they don’t show today, arrest warrants will go out. If their answers aren’t good enough, Lawson could send them to jail for three days and order them to pay a $1,000 fine. Based on what judges see in their courtrooms — and the high number of jury questionnaires that aren’t getting returned from Detroit — the jury pool is largely white.
“Unless you are totally blind, a judge cannot help but realize that when 100 people come into court for jury selection that there are one or two, or none, who are visibly minorities,” said U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, who co-chairs a jury committee trying to fix what she views as a pervasive problem: an underrepresentation of minorities on juries. “It’s troubling,” Roberts said. “It has always troubled me since I’ve been on the bench.” About 81 percent of those who end up on what is known as the qualified master jury wheel in federal court in Detroit are white. African Americans account for 11 percent of the qualified jury pool, yet census data show they represent about 21% of the district’s population.