Chances are greater that Harrison County residents will be called for jury duty this year.
With the addition of a third circuit court division, the circuit clerk's office will increase the number of people contacted as potential jurors each court term, said Donald Kopp, circuit clerk.
"We used to keep a master list of 8,000 people," Kopp said. "That had to be increased to 10,000 this year."
Grand juries in Harrison County meet in January, May and September. Each of those terms used to be divided into four three-week sessions. During the sessions, a petit jury decides cases handed down by the grand jury, he said.
Starting this month, however, court terms will be divided into five three-week sessions, Kopp said. That means three additional petit juries each year, and the need for more jurors, he said.
In the past, the circuit clerk's office mailed 200 questionnaires to garner 75 jurors each term. Now, Kopp's office will send 300 to get 110 to 115 qualified jurors.
The reason that many questionnaires are necessary to select a jury is because many of those contacted will be unable to serve for various reasons, Kopp said. For example, people over 65 are automatically excused if they want to be, he said.
And nearly anybody can receive one of the questionnaires, Kopp said. The county's master list of potential jurors is compiled from voter registration records and a list of licensed drivers received from the state, he said.
The first petit jury of 2001 is scheduled to meet for orientation today, Kopp said. Jurors will hear cases for the next three weeks.
Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.