Four jurors miss hearing

Four of the 12 jurors called for an honor trial on Sunday did not attend the proceedings, a highly unusual occurrence, said Honor Vice-Chair for Trials Clifton Bumgardner, a fourth-year Engineering student.

Constitutionally, students are guaranteed at least eight jurors at their trial. Honor Committee Chair Stephen Nash, a fourth-year College student, said since an alternate was called, the trial was able to move forward with nine jurors.

“We were certainly able to maintain the fairness of the process,” Nash said.

Bumgardner said, on average, one juror does not show up to almost every one of the 20 or so honor trials each semester. While he has seen two or three jurors fail to show up to a trial in the past, he has never seen four absent.

“It’s pretty regular, which is usually why I have to call two to three alternates at a time,” Bumgardner said. “This is certainly the worst I’ve seen it.”

Bumgardner said most jurors who miss a trial unexpectedly have overslept, forgotten to set their alarm or gone out the previous evening. “What I usually do is just follow up with them to see why [they didn’t] come [and] I can at least put them on another trial,” Bumgardner said. “If they don’t cooperate I can actually pursue [University Judiciary Committee] charges against them, but I have not [had to do that].”

Bumgardner said the worst case scenario would be needing to cancel a trial, which he said would be more likely if missing four jurors were a regular occurrence.

“It’s just discouraging if the day of the trial comes around, if not enough jurors show up, we may have to cancel the trial,” Bumgardner said. “That hasn’t had to happen at least within my term.”

Bumgardner said most jurors receive two weeks notice of when their trial will be and all jurors receive at least two email reminders from Bumgardner before the trial date.

Bumgardner and Nash both said the issue of missing student jurors was one of the reasons why the committee has proposed composing juries of only elected committee members as part of the Restore the Ideal Act.

“[Students must balance] what is it that we would all prefer in an ideal world, and what is actually happening,” Nash said.

All the talk about the committee’s proposed reforms made the absence of so many student jurors particularly disappointing, he added.

“We were both pretty frustrated and just disappointed, just given the context of things,” Nash said, speaking for himself and Bumgardner. “The weekend before this vote we have a trial and we have four individuals not show up [demonstrates] the practical” issues the jury reform proposes to address, Nash said.

Published February 25, 2013 in Grounds, FP test, News

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