Dal Williamson

Judge Dal Williamson

Jurors fined for failure to show, get chastised by judge

Northeast Jones students who were in Jones County Circuit Court to observe procedures in the criminal justice system could have gotten a civics lesson, too, if they’d stuck around a little longer.

Three Jones Countians who failed to follow the rules of jury duty were fined and lectured on the role that ordinary citizens play in the judicial system.

Heather Ann Christian, Corey Blaine Minyard and Roger Alan Walters were all ordered to pay a fine of $200, and if they don’t, they will have to serve 24 hours in jail, Judge Dal Williamson said.

Jurors who are selected to panels are instructed to call in to the circuit clerk’s office each night for a designated amount of time to find out if their service is needed in court the next day. The jurors who were called before the judge last week failed to do that every evening they were supposed to. Williamson subpoenaed them to court to find out why.

“I apologize,” said Christian — who is reportedly the judge’s cousin. “I called every day but three days. My husband works at night and I had the kids … I made a mistake.”

Williamson said that the failure of jurors to call in has “become a significant issue” so he’s sending a message that jury service “is not an option, it’s a duty.”

“I understand that life gets hectic, but that’s no just cause not to call or show up,” Williamson said. “It’s an inconvenience, but with no jurors, we couldn’t have a justice system and a civilized society.”

Minyard also apologized for forgetting to call in when he was supposed to.

“I own my own business, work 18 to 20 hours a day, and we have four adopted children,” Minyard said, adding that one of the children had run away and he was “dealing with that” at the time he was supposed to be calling in.

“If you would have called in and made that known, the court likely would have excused you,” Williamson said. “But you have to call. It is a duty. It’s not just a favor for the court.”

Walters also took the blame for his failure to call in. He told the judge that he, too, owns his own business and thought he “had an understanding” with the court that he didn’t have to serve after writing a letter that he was “too busy and would lose customers” if he closed his business for a day.

“It’s not an exemption, owning your own business,” Williamson said. “I need responsible citizens to serve as jurors. When you get a summons, if you’re not exempt, you show up.”

SNAP scammers paying up

In another matter, two Jones County women who pleaded guilty to fraudulently receiving government benefits in the form of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (previously food stamps) reported on the progress they’ve made in paying back what the owe.

Kimberly Hogan has paid back more than $10,000 of the $18,676 she received and Jalesia Haynes has paid back more than $6,500 of the $11,158 she received. The judge commended them for making their payments, told them to continue to do so and to report back to the court in March to monitor their progress.

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