GOVERNMENT

Your question answered: How are jurors chosen?

Sandy Hull
Debra Doss

THE QUESTION

How does the county go about choosing people for jury duty?

THE ANSWER

Deb Doss, Henry County Circuit Court clerk, explained that the process of selecting prospective jurors begins with the Illinois Court Administrative Office each year supplying the circuit clerk’s office with a CD containing a randomly-generated list of names of Henry County residents eligible for jury service.

Doss said the list is compiled from driver’s license, voter registration and unemployment records.

When the Henry County Circuit Clerk’s office receives the CD, it is entered into the office’s computer system.  That system then creates a random list of 2,500 to 3,000 people who are sent questionnaires.

When a pool of prospective jurors is needed, 50 names are selected, again randomly, from the county’s list of eligible jurors.  Those people are notified by mail that they are on the jury list, and given a phone number to call the night before a court case is scheduled, to see if jurors will be needed the next day.  (Cases are sometimes settled or dismissed, eliminating the need for jurors.)

Doss stressed the need for people selected as prospective jurors to call the number.  If they don’t, and they don’t show up in court the next day, the clerk’s office can send the sheriff to find them and bring them in.

While rare, she said, “In my years of service, that has happened.”

Under Illinois law, Doss said, “Everybody is eligible for jury service.”  However, she said, the clerk’s office will work with people who have legitimate reasons not to serve--age, problems with transportation to Cambridge or health issues, for example.

Prospective jurors who are sick can call the circuit clerk’s office, and Doss said the office staff will work with people who are self-employed or who have vacation plans.

Jury service can last for as little as a day or as long as several weeks, depending on how long a trial lasts.

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