Calcasieu Clerk of Court Lynn Jones. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Friday, July 05, 2013 6:17 PM
To all Calcasieu Parish residents who open the mail and groan to find a notice for jury duty, you are not alone.
Calcasieu Clerk of Court Lynn Jones, whose office oversees the parish’s jury pool, said that when he recently found out he had been chosen for jury duty, he wanted to go through the process to serve as an “example” to others.
Little did he think he would be seated on a jury, though.
Much to his shock, he found himself a member of a jury in one of the parish’s recent murder trials.
Jones sits on the parish’s jury commission. Although names are selected randomly by a computer, the law requires that the jury commission must read each name aloud.
“When they read my name, they got a big kick out of that,” he said.
Jones said everyone he told he’d received a jury summons — his pastor, courthouse staff and his own staff — responded by saying, “Oh, you’ll never be picked.”
But Jones was selected to a sit on a jury that also included a brother and sister. It had been 23 years since Jones was last called for jury duty. He called it an “eye-opening and interesting experience.”
“The overall experience was great, and it gave me a greater appreciation of the type of people we have here in Southwest Louisiana,” he said. “I wanted to lead by example and in doing so, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
He experienced some of the plights of jurors and potential jurors — including that the chairs in the jury pool room are uncomfortable. “I had heard that complaint earlier, but I felt it firsthand,” he said.
He said he plans to speak with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury to see if more comfortable seating can be found. “We want to make it as painless as possible,” he said.
Although as clerk of court he has sat through trials before, sitting in as a juror enabled him to see the courtroom through a different lens.
“When they swear you in, something goes off inside you: ‘Wow, this is very serious,’ ” he said. “It’s interesting how zeroed in your attention is to what is going on around you.”
He said he saw the same look in his fellow jurors’ eyes.
“You really establish a camaraderie with your fellow jurors,” he said. “We had different ages, different religions, different ethnic backgrounds, but everybody took the job very seriously. You could see that it brings out the best in everybody.”
He also experienced the weight of the decision jurors are asked to make.
“The night before the close of the trial it was tough sleeping because of the decisions of the next day,” he said.
As clerk of court, Jones is a constant advocate for voting.
He also encouraged both people and their employers to participate in the jury process.
Some try to avoid jury selection by declining to register to vote, but names from the Office of Motor Vehicles are also included in the pool, he said.
“If you drive, you’re still in the jury pool,” Jones said.