17,000 potential island jurors being contacted

LIHU’E – On July 31, the Hawai`i State Judiciary mailed juror questionnaires to

194,000 residents of Hawai`i, including 17,000 potential jurors on

Kaua`i.

Those who received questionnaires must complete and return them to

the Jury Pool Office in Honolulu. An addressed return envelope was included

with the jury questionnaires.

Failure to respond may lead to being fined

for contempt of court.

The questionnaires will be used to select eligible

jurors for the coming year.

Those who received questionnaires were randomly

selected from driver’s license, voter registration and state income tax

lists.

To be eligible for jury duty, one must be at least 18 years old, a

United States citizen, a resident of Hawai`i and be able to read and comprehend

English.

Freida Baker of the Jury Pool office on Oahu said convicted felons

also cannot serve as jurors even after they’ve served their time.

She said

a private firm on Oahu was hired to go through the forms and disqualify any

folks who weren’t qualified.

In addition to those who aren’t qualified,

Baker said quite a few exemptions for job-related reasons are claimed.

Professions that can be automatically exempted from jury duty in Hawai`i

include judges, state department heads, attorneys, ministers, priests, police

officers, doctors and dentists.

Also eligible to excluded is anyone who has

served in the previous year as a juror in a Hawai`i state court, or as a juror

in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai`i, within one year of

filling out the juror qualification form.

“We’ve been trying to do away

with exemptions for quite a while, but we’ve been unable to get our Legislature

to do that,” Baker said.

“We do get a cross section of the community,

though” as jurors, Baker added. “Although many of those who can claim

exemptions do, we do get a few who want to serve. We’ve had a few judges and

attorneys who did serve.”

Requests to be excused due to personal hardship

will be considered only at the time a prospective juror is summoned.

Steven

Okihare, court administrator for Kaua`i’s Fifth Circuit Court, said 6,962

jurors qualified this year and didn’t seek exemption (out of approximately

17,000 forms sent out).

In 1999, according to Okihare, 6,800 jurors

qualified out of about 17,000 sent questionnaires.

Okihare agreed that

despite exemptions, Hawaii’s juries are “balanced enough, even though

everything is random.”

Additional information the jury pool office at (808)

539-4360.

Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext.

252) and [dwilken@pulitzer.net]

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