When Carmela Khury got called up for jury duty, she probably wasn’t thrilled. But the Rochester Hills, Michigan woman did what she had to do and arranged child care for her two young children so she could fulfill her civic duty. But when, on the second day of jury selection in a murder trail, Khury found herself unexpectedly without a babysitter, she again did what she had to do: She phoned the court clerk and informed him of the situation.
While Khury might have expected to be excused from jury duty under the circumstances, she was not. The court clerk told her that if she didn’t show up, she’d be arrested.
Now, that reaction is not all that surprising. The courts know that some people hate the idea of jury duty so much that they will do just about anything to avoid it. But Khury wasn’t telling a story and dutifully showed up that morning with her 8-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter in tow.
But that’s where things took a surprising turn. Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman excused Khury from participating, but ordered her to return every day to observe the entire trial, which could go on for several weeks. And if that wasn’t punishment enough, he also sentenced her to spend 24 hours in jail for contempt of court after the end of the trial.
For two days, Khury complied with the judge’s orders, observing the court proceedings while her mother took care of her children. But when Deborah Green, an official with the State Court Administrative Office got wind of the situation, she put an end to the nonsense. Informing him that he had overstepped his authority, she ordered Judge Bowman to release Khury. He did, but not before lecturing the 37-year-old mother like a naughty child and questioning whether she’d learned her lesson.
Apparently, this judge has a bit of reputation for being on tough on all potential jurors, not just parents. But this situation does raise a few valid questions. Should parents get special treatment when it comes to being excused from jury duty? Or, as some suggest, should the courts provide child care for parents serving on juries?
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