May 13, 2005 Thirteen St. John residents and an unknown number on St. Thomas had their Thursday interrupted when they were hauled off, with no notice, to serve on a Superior Court jury. These people had not ignored jury summonses, but were nabbed at random by Superior Court marshals to expand the jury pool for cases next week.
"Occasionally it happens," Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar said Friday.
She said people would also be picked up off the street on Friday.
Hollar said the court was legally allowed to fill up its jury pool in this fashion.
One St. Thomas attorney, who asked not to be named, called it poor planning on the part of the Superior Court not to have enough jurors in its pool for upcoming cases.
Hollar said that one case due for trial next week calls for a dozen jurors and six alternates, which is an unusually high number. Therefore, the court needed more jurors.
"They knew this was coming," the attorney said Friday.
A St. John construction worker, who did not want his name used, was among those caught in the net. He said he was waiting in his car mid-morning Thursday near Woody's Seafood Saloon in downtown Cruz Bay while his father went into the restaurant. When he got out of the car to see what was taking his father so long, a Superior Court marshal asked to see his driver's license.
"He said 'you've been summoned to jury duty. Get in the van,'" the construction worker said Friday.
Fortunately for this man, his father was able to move his illegally parked car, but the man couldn't return to work. He said someone else had to drive his crew back to Cruz Bay. He also was able to let his father know where he was going.
It's unclear if the other dozen people were able to notify anyone of where they were headed, but Hollar said that people were able to use their cell phones if they had them.
The St. Thomas attorney called it "kidnaping." He said the Superior Court's actions may influence how those picked up view the case.
"This will taint the jury pool," he said.
The construction worker said after he got in the van, the driver drove it to the Marketplace shopping center where the marshals nabbed more people.
Although Hollar said the marshals were taking people off the street in order to ensure a random selection, staff at Scotia Bank in the Marketplace had a different experience.
Yvette Francis, assistant manager at Scotia Bank, said Friday the marshals took one of her tellers and a customer service representative right out of the bank.
"We were short-staffed already," she said Friday.
She said that the marshals allowed the teller to close out, but stood right there while she did it.
Francis said that thankfully, the bank was only open for two more hours that day.
She said the marshals tried to include her in the round-up, but let her go when she proved she was a St. Thomas resident.
The construction worker said they finally headed on the barge to St. Thomas. He said that although he had been picked up before lunch and it was then past lunch time, the marshals didn't provide any meal. He said that after processing, they were driven back to the Red Hook ferry dock and given tickets to get back home.
He said that while he understands it is his civic duty to serve on a jury, he was troubled by this method of picking the jurors.
"Send something in the mail," he said.
He said if he had advance notice, he could organize his schedule. He said he plans to attend his sister's off-island wedding on Wednesday and hopes he won't be stuck in jury duty.
Stacy Sewer-Hendricks was one of the Scotia Bank employees who were caught in the net.
She said Friday she didn't think the court followed proper procedures in taking people without sending them summonses
Hollar said those picked up from the streets on Thursday and Friday received letters to give to their employers when they got back to work.
She said all those picked up on Thursday and Friday must report on Monday to St. Thomas.
The construction worker questioned why they didn't process them on St. John, which has a Superior Court courtroom, instead of using up the day going to St. Thomas. He said the procedure at the Superior Court on St. Thomas only took about five minutes.
Attorney General Alva Swan did not return a phone call requesting comment.
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