- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

TOWSON, Md. (AP) A disclosure that a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury commissioner improperly excused jurors with prior commitments will likely lead to changes in jury selection.
"I'm telling you, that's got to stop," Judge John F. Fader told Jury Commissioner Nancy Tilton in court. "And believe me, it will."
Judge Fader said Miss Tilton was automatically excusing anyone who said he or she had day care problems. She excused others for a variety of reasons without making them present their excuses to a judge, Judge Fader said.
The Supreme Court ruled in the 1970s that parents caring for young children should not be relieved from jury duty. Such a policy would render the jury pool mostly male, said Byron L. Warnken, an associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
"Fader was recognizing, 'We've got a problem here,'" Mr. Warnken said. "Conceivably, every verdict that came out of one of these juries violated the 1970s Supreme Court decisions."
The issue arose last week during pretrial proceedings in a scheduled death-penalty murder trial.
When Miss Tilton brought Judge Fader a stack of forms, each from a juror she said she had excused, the judge became agitated.
One person had a 94-year-old mother who recently moved to a retirement community; another was a doctor who had to see patients. A stay-at-home mother said she had no child care. Another person said he or she could not serve on a jury because "my job is very critical and nobody else can do it."
Miss Tilton, who has worked in the jury commissioner's office for 25 years, said in court she has had the authority in the past to excuse some people on a case-by-case basis. She also said her office automatically excuses people with day care problems.
"Don't do it anymore," the judge told her.


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