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Dennis Norris no longer remembers the exact date, but years ago while having breakfast at a local coffee shop in Bend, Ore., a few local police officers walked in and announced that they were four jurors short for a trial and needed volunteers. With the blessings of his boss, Norris, who was an office equipment repairman at the time, and five other patrons followed the officers to the Deschutes County Courthouse, where he was assigned to a drunken driving case. The trial lasted 2 1/2 hours and resulted in a guilty verdict. “That’s the way it is in a small town,” Norris said. “You step up to the plate [when needed] . . . .You can’t have a trial without jurors. If someone has not or is not fulfilling their civic duty to serve, the most important thing is to get a jury for the trial.” The Oregon rules of civil procedure allow judges to direct sheriff’s officers to secure jurors from the immediate population when the pool has become exhausted. Appealing an odd practice Though the set of circumstances that turned Norris, now a property management technician for Ochoco National Forest, into an emergency juror occurs rarely in Oregon, it has raised concerns about the jury process in smaller areas such as Crook County, which has a population of roughly 20,000, according to the 2000 census. Defense attorney John Hummel wants a review of the juror law after his client was convicted last year on drug charges by a jury, half of which was recruited by sheriff’s officers at the U.S. Post Office across the street from the Crook County Courthouse in Prineville. The appeal is currently being prepared by the state public defender’s office, Hummel said. Hummel of Bend’s Crabtree and Rahmsdorff is questioning whether the practice violates the defendant’s right for the jury to represent a cross-section of the community. He asserted that patrons of the post office in the middle of the day are usually older and retired. Had the jurors found at the post office been included in the original pool, Hummel said he would have made different decisions about whom to eliminate. Hummel also objects to the practice because the individuals are asked to sit in on a specific case by officers who may have been involved in the arrest or interrogations. Hummel said the courts should use their officers to retrieve those who ignored their jury duty summonses rather than finding new people off the street. “Once you allow people to disobey their subpoenas, it’s a blow to the whole system,” he said. Amy Bonkosky, court administrator for Crook and neighboring Jefferson counties, said this situation occurred twice last year. But she added that the matter is really more of a “fluke” than a problem with the jury-selection process. Crook County District Attorney Gary Williams said he doesn’t think the problem is a function of the size of the counties, but instead of jurors who do not appear for trial. “It’s an effective process in that it provides available jurors immediately,” he said. “I would prefer it not need to be done. But in a pinch, it’s a satisfactory procedure.” Williams said it’s also important not to delay a trial. “When we run out of jurors, we don’t want to stand around,” he said. “[The law] could be potentially disadvantageous to citizens who were chosen on their way to the grocery store or post office, but it’s an effective solution to a problem that arises occasionally,” Williams added. Kevin Neely, spokesman for the Oregon Attorney General’s Office, said the office has not received any complaints about the process, but he noted that some cases are currently on appeal regarding jury selection. Neely added that appeals filed by defense attorneys regarding the jury are not an uncommon occurrence regardless of how they are selected. About 750 people are contacted in Crook County to serve over a four-month period. Bonkosky said the county is putting more focus on reminding people to show up for service, by calling to ask them ahead of time. And anyone who finds the service inconvenient can be directed to Norris, the property manager. “When it comes to jury duty, I was having coffee one day and got pulled, so don’t complain to me that you have to serve jury duty,” he joked. Landau’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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