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Court officials say thanks to jurors this week

CONYERS -- Court officials said they understand the sacrifices citizens make to serve as jurors and will be honoring the people who fulfill their civil duty this week with fun -- and tasty -- gifts.

In time for Juror Appreciation Week, which begins Monday and runs through June 21, more than 15 local food businesses have donated coupons, gift certificates and free food for the estimated 130 jurors who will be coming in for jury duty Monday morning for criminal jury trials.

Rockdale County Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson said the court is cooperating with local businesses and involving the community in expressing appreciation to "citizens who answer the call."

"We realize that it's a sacrifice and an inconvenience, but we want people to understand that it's a civic obligation and without their cooperation the judicial system falls apart," Wilson said.

Juries play an important role in maintaining the quality of life in the community by "making sure that justice is rendered impartially," according to Wilson.

"It's a very basic part of the way our democracy operates. It puts power in the hands of the people ... because they get to hear the evidence make good decisions, together," Wilson said.

Rockdale County Superior Court Judge David Irwin agreed that being a juror is not something that the courts take for granted.

"The civil and criminal justice system could not operate without citizens performing their service on juries," Irwin said. "They're the foundation for which the whole system operates."

Irwin explained that he notices how juries help expedite cases.

"Without a jury people have a tendency to delay resolving their matter," the judge said.

Wilson described the biggest issue she finds in jury selection relates to residents who do not want to miss work because they were summoned to court for jury duty.

"People who are employed want to remain employed. People who are looking for work want to spend their time looking for work. They don't want to spend their time sitting in a jury pool," Wilson said. "It's more challenging in a down economy to get people to feel good about jury service and that's part of the reason that we want to do this."

Wilson also explained how a pool of potential jurors is collected by the Jury Commission that goes through different sources, including Driver Services and election records, to select people to serve as potential jurors. Then, a computer program randomly selects jurors for jury trials.

"We follow the law to the letter when it comes to paneling the jury and the managing the whole jury process," Wilson said.

Wilson was appreciative to all the donating businesses.

"This is another way of reminding people that service is possible for every citizen," Wilson said. "It's an obligation. It's a right. But it's also a privilege."

Businesses interested in donating during Jury Appreciation Week can call the Juror Appreciation Coordinator at 770-278-7901.