Why were 36 people no-shows for jury duty in high-profile child rape case?
VERNAL, Utah (KUTV) - A Uintah County judge is ordering 36 people to explain why they didn't show up for jury duty in a high profile child rape case out of Vernal. The result led to a mistrial and now another venue change for the trial.
“It was disappointing not being able to move forward,” said Mark Thomas, Uintah County Attorney, to 2News. “All parties had prepared. It is a major case obviously we were prepared for a number of witnesses."
The case dates back to March of 2016 when a 9-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three men inside a home in Vernal. The girl’s mother was allegedly out in the garage smoking meth.
The trial was moved to the Summit County courthouse because of the emotions in the community surrounding the case.
Jury selection was to take place a week ago and according to Geoffrey Fattah, of Utah State Courts, 96 potential jurors were expected to show. But instead, only 60 showed up. Fattah says after questioning the potential jurors that only left 21 to try and seat an eight-member jury with two alternates.
“As a result, we were not able to seat a jury,” said Fattah. The judge is now ordering the 36 no-shows to appear in court.
“The judge then has an opportunity to hear from them and then at that point, the judge will make the determination to find them in contempt of court,” said Fattah.
Fattah says a no-show for jury duty could turn into a class C misdemeanor which has a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. No one is expected to go to jail but someone could be fined or be ordered to do community service.
“We want people to take jury duty seriously,” said Fattah.