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Florida Judge Punishes Juror With a Sentence of More Jury Duty

Not everyone sees jury duty as the kind of essential civic responsibility that you and I do. Whereas we revel in the chance to serve in our nation's courts and participate in our legal justice system, others see it as an inconvenience, one to be avoided at all costs.

Alisia Carnes could be one of those people. Why else would she disobey a court order forbidding potential jurors from reading about the case? But if she was attempting to disqualify herself from serving on a jury, it didn't quite work -- the judge sentenced her to six more months of jury duty.

The First Rule of Jury Duty Is: Don't Read About the Case

Carnes is pretty smart. After all, she works for a law firm. A firm that specializes in mortgage foreclosures, sure, but a law firm nonetheless. And maybe, one morning around the water cooler, she heard how jurors aren't supposed to do outside research on the cases they decide. If not, she certainly heard it from Circuit Judge William Fuente, who handed her and a couple hundred other potential jurors a written order prohibiting them from reading about the case along with this verbal admonishment:

"There has been and will be media interest and reporting in this case. And as such it is imperative that every prospective juror not allow himself or herself to be exposed to anything in any of the media related to the accused or anything about this case at any time during the jury selection phase or during the actual trial."

Certainly Carnes was on notice not to read anything relating to the defendant or the trial. But did that stop her? Nope. That very night Carnes went home and read all about accused murderer Dontae Morris.

The Second Rule of Jury Duty Is: Don't Read About the Case

There was a reason Judge Fuente was so adamant in his warnings -- this was Morris's third murder trial. And he has another one coming up. It might've been harder for jurors to avoid stories about the case than to find them. So maybe that's why he came down so hard on Carnes.

Fuente sentenced her to 6 months of court-supervised probation and 50 hours of community service work for violating the court order. And Carnes has to report for jury duty every other Monday during her probation until either she is selected for and serves on a trial, or her probation is over.

But there could be another reason for the harsh penalty. It's possible that Judge Fuente suspected, like we do, that Carnes was trying to shirk jury duty by reading about the case. She may have thought the judge would simply disqualify her from the jury pool. But Carnes wasn't that lucky, and now she has at least twelve more opportunities to perform her civic responsibility and serve on a jury.

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