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Clerk to mail out 11,000 questionnaires

In upcoming weeks, the Decatur County Jury Commission will be mailing out 11,000 jury questionnaires to citizens of Decatur County who are potentially eligible for jury duty, said Clerk of Courts Cecilia Willis.

The local jury commission is mailing the questionnaires in its efforts to conduct an overhaul of the county’s jury lists.

State laws require the six-member commission to revise trial jury and grand jury lists at least every two years to ensure local jury lists are large enough to handle the work of the courts. The lists must be aligned by race and sex to mirror the makeup of the overall population of the county, in order to comply with federal and state constitutional provisions concerning the rights of individuals to trial by jury, Willis said.

“We all know it can be annoying to people to have to complete a questionnaire, but it is a necessary annoyance. We hope everyone understands we are just doing our jobs as required by law,” Willis said in a news release.

Once jury questionnaires are mailed, citizens of the county have 10 days to complete and mail them back to the local court clerk’s office.

Persons who fail to do so may be required to show cause to a Superior Court judge as to why they failed to do so. A judge may find a person who fails to respond to the questionnaire in contempt of court, which means the person may be fined up to $500 and/or imprisoned for a period not exceeding 20 days.

On the other hand, if you have not been called for jury service in the past five years and want to have your name added to the jury pool, the simplest way is to call the clerk’s office at 248-3025 and speak with the jury management clerk. A jury questionnaire will be sent via mail, or the potential juror may also submit their name and address from the clerk’s Web site, www.decaturclerk.com, using the “contact us” section.

The county’s trial jury list is used for the county’s Superior and State courts, the only local courts in which jury trials are provided for by law.

To be eligible as a juror, a person must be an “intelligent and upright” citizen of Decatur County who is 18 years of age or older, must not have been convicted of a felony or, if a convicted felon, must have had his or her civil rights restored.

Persons who are permanently physically or mentally unable to serve may be excused from service upon submittal to the jury commission of an affidavit from a physician or psychiatrist requesting excusal. Persons serving on a jury must also be able to speak and understand the English language, Willis said.