A Vermont judge sent his sheriff to the mall to round up a jury that could fairly try a child molester.
They stopped passers-by and asked if they were residents of Caledonia County; a “yes” answer won a summons to appear at the courthouse for jury duty immediately, right now, this minute. They rounded up 45 people that way in all, to join the 34 already at the courthouse.
Most people apparently did not mind being summoned for surprise jury service. According to the sheriff, “99.9 percent were just excellent” about being summoned on a sidewalk and ordered to report to the courthouse immediately.” Deputies were also dispatched to the local post office and supermarket.
The defense attorneys were less than thrilled with the idea of sidewalk jury.
Defense attorney Sleigh filed a motion to quash the impromptu jury pool, saying the proper way to proceed would be to simply postpone the jury draw and then draw from an all new jury pool during the next round of jury draws. Sleigh was not sure the new jurors were unbiased and he had questions regarding the method used by deputies to pick jurors. He also questioned whether picking jurors in front of the St. Johnsbury post office could provide geographic representation.
Eaton noted the Charron case is 574 days old and is one of the oldest cases on the District Court docket. He rejected Sleigh’s objections and told the parties the jury draw would begin.
Dredging malls for juries is a surprisingly common tactic for judges in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Next time you see a sheriff in the mall, walk the other way unless you want an impromptu civics lesson.