By Betty Williamson
I was one of the 171 prospective jurors who reported to a packed session in Roosevelt County District Court last week for upcoming service.
It looked like an impressive turnout until jury clerk Mary Diaz-Rodriguez shared the numbers with us. For this particular panel, more than 800 summons were mailed out. Of that number, she said, 128 were excused, 65 were disqualified, 29 were deferred, 86 were undeliverable, 55 were denied, and a whopping 321 never bothered to respond.
District Judge Donna Mowrer tells me these are typical numbers, and says that it is “extremely difficult to get enough jurors to serve.”
“We’ve all had to cancel a trial because we didn’t have enough jurors,” Mowrer said, a problem both discouraging and expensive.
“The right to a trial by jury is guaranteed in the New Mexico Constitution and the United States Constitution,” Mowrer said, “and people have died to protect that right. The least citizens can do is to uphold that right by serving as jurors.”
My friend Janie is on this same panel. As we were visiting afterwards (one of the best built-in benefits of jury service), she told me that when she receives a summons, she always reminds herself that if she was ever in trouble, she’d want to know that good people were taking the time to make a fair judgment.
Me, too, Janie. I’ll see you in court.
Betty Williamson finds the most challenging part of jury service is remembering to leave her pocket knife in her car. You may reach her at: