MIDLAND, Texas — Jury duty is something that comes with democracy. But in Midland, jury duty seems to come around often.
Now that COVID restrictions have been lifted, the courts here are playing catch up - and are busier than ever.
“The role of the juror is to be impartial," Laura Nodolf, Midland Co. District Attorney said. "To listen to the facts, judge the credibility of the witnesses, and in a criminal case see if the state has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
According to the District Clerk’s Office, every week about three to four cases go to trial. So anywhere from 195 to 400 Midlanders are summoned each week.
12 or 14 people are selected to be on the jury for each trial.
“We understand that everyone has a life outside of the courthouse and they have things they’d rather do than sit on hard benches listening to lawyers talk," Nodolf said. "We really appreciate their time and efforts because it could a family of homicide that’s been waiting during COVID for justice for their family.”
The District Clerk, Alex Archuleta, tells us prior to COVID and oil going negative, there were about 112,000 people in the county's juror pool.
But with people moving out of the area, the juror pool has shrunk to 70,000 people.
Meanwhile, crime in the area has gone up so there are more cases going to trial, and the courts are playing catch up from the cases they could not try during the pandemic.
“56 cases involved death last year alone, so even if we tried one of those cases a week for the whole year we would not clear that docket," Nodolf said. "That doesn’t include the numerous crimes against children we have, the family violence, the burglary of inhabitation. Those are serious cases with serious offenders. And those cases often need to be tried.”
As for not showing up to jury duty? That can result in a fine or being held in contempt.
The district attorney tells me that is rare but can happen depending on the judge.
The District Clerk’s office tells me Midland has about a 90% compliance rate when it comes to jury duty, meaning most people show up to jury duty.
That is one of the highest compliance rates in the state.