Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shanghaiing a Jury

Careful next time you wander near a courthouse, because you may find yourself 'shanghaied,' or pressed into juror service. 

An obscure set of Texas statutes allow judges to command the sheriff to round up potential jurors if a venire panel gets busted. The statute specifies that judges presiding over capital cases can command the sheriff to find additional venire members, or additional 'talesmen,' if the panel becomes insufficient. Although the statute is reserved for non-jury wheel counties, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld district courts that commanded the sheriff to find additional venire members outside of those officially summoned by the jury wheel. See Moon v. State, 169 Tex. Crim. 14, 17-18 (1959); but see Coy v. State, 163 Tex. Crim. 58, 60 (1956) ("In [the statute], the legislature again made it clear that in counties using the jury wheel system for obtaining juries when additional jurors are necessary in order to complete the panel they be drawn from the jury wheel and not selected by the sheriff"). In short, the courts seem to have ignored the statute and may command the sheriff to shanghai people from the streets and press them into jury service. 

But does this violate a defendant's due process? Are people selected from around the courthouse an accurate representation of the community? The 1st District Court of Appeals decided that 
[the defendant] failed to produce any evidence that the Sheriff wilfully [sic] summoned jurors with a view to securing a conviction or acquittal. Furthermore, appellant failed to show that any jurors were unqualified or were objectionable, or that he was forced to accept an unacceptable juror because all of his peremptory strikes were used. (emphasis original)(citing Esquivel v. State, 595 S.W.2d 516, 523 (Tex.Crim.App.1980)).
In short, the defendant failed to show he was harmed. But how is a defendant supposed to show that the sheriff willfully summoned jurors with a view to securing a conviction or acquittal? In Sykes v. State, 03-02-00783-CR, 2004 WL 392874 (Tex. App. Austin), the court found the defendant had not met this burden. In this case, the judge commanded Bastrop County Sheriff and three deputies to find additional talesman. See id. at *3. The four visited grocery stores in the towns of Smithville, Elgin, and Bastrop to collect the names and addresses of shoppers. Id. The defendant argued that the court should have relied on the jury wheel and that she was harmed by a misrepresentation of the jury.  Id. According to the defendant, shoppers at the grocery stores were from the towns, as opposed to the countryside, and therefore urban dwellers were overly represented to the expense of the rural population. Id. The court did not buy her arguments. See id. at *4. Rural residents are not a suspect class, the county did not have a jury wheel, and she failed to show that the sheriff or his deputies willfully summoned jurors with a view to securing a conviction or acquittal. 

Most courts follow the statute's requirement for jury wheel counties to defer to the wheel, but not all. However, all courts follow the requirement that a defendant arguing a due process violation has to show willful intent to summon jurors with a biased viewpoint. I have yet to find a case where a defendant successfully appealed on this argument. So be careful next time you wander near a courthouse, or shop at a local grocery store, because you may find yourself summoned to serve on a jury.

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