The important role of a juror - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The important role of a juror

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August 22, 2006

Albany--One shocking development in that case before testimony even began in the Amanda Troupe trial. Judge Mike Boggs tossed a potential juror in jail today. Catherine Townsend admitted she watched our news coverage of the trial last night against the judge's order.

News 10 spoke with a judge here in Dougherty County about what judges expect from jurors.

In his twenty years on the bench, Dougherty Superior Court Chief Judge Loring Gray has never once questioned a jury's verdict.

"I've been in awe of some of them. But I've never criticized them," he says.

He admits he's seen jurors do some pretty crazy things inside the courtroom.

"I actually had a juror answer her cell phone in the jury box two weeks ago during a criminal trial. I was so surprised at it that I let her walk outside to answer it!"he says.

But the consequences soon followed.

"I excused her from jury duty, and required that she forfeit her pay for two days," says Gray.

He says jurors should always take their duty seriously.

"It's a very important function of the jurors," he says.  With any trial, a juror is prohibited from discussing the case with anyone or following the case through the media.

"The media doesn't cover every single word of the trial.  For a juror to derive any information from an outside source would mean that that source was not protected from the technical rules of evidence," he says.

 Breaking these ground rules could potentially lead to jail time.  "I would very likely have that person summoned by the sheriff's office, and have them explain to me why they should not be held in contempt," he says.

Judge Gray says he's never thrown a juror in jail as Coffee County Judge Mike Boggs did, but he has thought about it.

"In rare occassions have I ever thought of putting anyone in jail," says Gray.

To avoid getting in trouble,  if you're called to serve on a jury, Judge Gray offers some simple suggestions.

"Be here, be here on time, and pay attention," he says.

In Georgia, if a juror is found guilty of contempt of court, he could face up to twenty days in jail and be fined up to five-hundred dollars.

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