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Philadelphia Jury Duty Scofflaws Handed Fines and Jail Time

By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Three people were sentenced to prison today for ignoring jury duty notices, long described as a chronic and critical problem in Philadelphia.

Court officials say only about 14 percent of Philadelphians summoned for jury duty come to court.

Some have legitimate reasons and exemptions, but nearly 40 percent just don't show -- won't show -- despite repeated notices and warnings.

Common Pleas Court administrative judge John Herron says the size of jury panels has been cut because of the shortage of potential jurors.

Now, three people, arrested before dawn at their homes, have been found guilty, been fined, and sentenced to spend the day in jail.  Dozens of others who finally responded were required to pay fines and fees.

"There are a lot of men and women out there right now who are putting their lives on the line for this country," noted deputy court administrator Richard McSorley, "and in this country all we ask, as Judge Herron said, is that you obey the law, you vote, and you appear for jury duty.  It's a very simple request.  It's very important to our system."

And, he pointed out, if you ignore this one responsibility as an American citizen, there are consequences.


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