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Two judges send stern messages on jury duty

By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published February 28, 2007


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Nineteen-year-old Daniel Harrell is learning a civics lesson the hard way. Serving on a court jury is a responsibility, not an option. It's why they call it jury duty.

Harrell, of Land O' Lakes, remains behind bars today, serving Day 9 of the 15-day contempt of court sentence handed down by Pasco Circuit Court Judge Wayne Cobb. Harrell balked at serving on a civil court jury last week, saying afterward he couldn't be bothered to listen to other peoples' problems.

Facing a promised punishment from Cobb of a sentence that would exceed the duration of the trial, Harrell didn't blink. "You all do whatever you have to do," he said, wrongly believing he could post bail and be out of jail in a matter of hours. Harrell's immaturity and narcissism, instead, brought him a criminal conviction.

The same day Harrell lost his game of law and order roulette, a west Pasco business owner also ran afoul of the jury system. His punishment was a contempt of court conviction, plus a $500 fine.

All-Pro Printing owner Sean Hylton fired Dave Davidson Nov. 28, after he missed work to report for jury duty.

Hylton contended he dismissed Davidson for habitual tardiness and absenteeism. The state disagreed, sending its most high-profile prosecutor in Pasco County, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis, to present its case. Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray Jr. ruled against Hylton after a contempt of court hearing last week.

"This sends a message about how important jury duty is," said Halkitis, characterizing the role of juror as "the biggest duty during peacetime."

Just ask Harrell. Three days after his standoff with Cobb, he expressed remorse in a jailhouse interview with Times staff writer Gina Pace. Other people should be prepared to serve, Harrell said. His own decision?

"It was a big mistake."

Indeed.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 20:16:57]


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