Morris Triggs, Kevin Dodd and the Rev. Sandy Waltman won't be serving on Oklahoma County juries this week.
The Friday before a jury trial week, the courthouse's chief district judge for the month hears excuses from potential jurors.
In the latest session, District Judge Bryan Dixon did not refuse any juror asking to be excused from jury duty or rescheduling requests.
“I was able to be very lenient today because I had the luxury of knowing that there's not a tremendous need for jurors next week,” Dixon said Friday. “You've just got to use common sense down there.
“What we'll be left with are some good people who come down on Monday and do a great job.”
Triggs, 68, of Oklahoma City, is scheduled to have stents placed in his heart Monday. It's not the kind of surgery he wants to postpone.
“Before I got this letter, I was already scheduled,” Triggs said.
“I wasn't looking forward to it. I haven't served before, but I would if I had to, I would.”
Triggs was excused, as was Dodd, 19, who will be attending classes at the K-12 Charter School in the Choctaw-Nicoma Park district.
“I wasn't going to be able to do it because of schooling,” Dodd said. “It was pretty simple, but it took forever.”
But Waltman, of Edmond, will return in February in order to fulfill her jury service.
“I'm a pastor of a church, and I'm going out of town,” she said.
Waltman, who heads the Lion's Den Ministries, said the upcoming holidays are a busy time for her at work.
“I asked to be rescheduled because I don't mind serving,” Waltman said.
Potential jurors are selected from driver's license records gleaned from the Department of Public Safety. For the past 17 years, an automated system creates a list of those to be summoned in what's called the jury wheel.
That process allows for potential jurors to be given individual bar codes, which expedites the process of taking roll and seating jurors to hear cases.
About 400 Oklahoma County residents file into the courthouse 21 Mondays a year to begin the jury selection process.
Jury trials are not held in July or August.
But of the more than 120,000 charges brought forth each year in Oklahoma County, less than 1 percent of them go to trial, Court Clerk Tim Rhodes said.
“It's an exception for a case to go to a jury,” he said.
People are excused from jury service for many reasons, including nonrefundable travel tickets, care of elderly dependents and new jobs.
“In a bad economy, you've got a lot of people who have just gotten work and you don't want to take them from their new job,” Dixon said.
Proven extreme physical or financial hardships may also result in excusals by state law. This does not include jurors who simply would have to be absent from his or her place of employment.
By state statute, some people are not qualified to be jurors because of position or profession. Those include state Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals justices, legislators during a legislative session, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, licensed practicing attorneys, and convicted felons who have not had their rights restored.
Breast-feeding mothers and military members on active duty during a time of war also may be exempt from jury service upon request.
State and federal jailers and law enforcement officers may only serve on civil juries, by state statute.
On Friday, a new law took effect, allowing residents more than 70 years old who have served on a jury in the past five years to be excused from jury service. Previously, they were excused if they had served on a jury in the past two years.
The court also may excuse those with mental or physical conditions that make them incapable of performing jury service if documented by a practicing physician.
But other state employees are not exempt. This includes the Oklahoma County jury clerk.
“If my own employees can't get out of it, I can't help anybody else,” Rhodes said.
Politicians and famous people also have served on county juries, including former Oklahoma first lady Kim Henry, Rhodes said. In his experience, they have done so dutifully and without complaint.
“By and large, they don't call up and try to assert their authority. They consider themselves to be real people,” Rhodes said.
“Here in the heartland, folks take their civic duty seriously.”
Jury service pays $20 a day. Jurors are reimbursed for gas mileage from their home ZIP code. That is expected to cover the cost of parking and lunch.
“Most folks tell us when they're excused, ‘I'm glad that I did it,' ” Rhodes said of jurors who have served and been excused.
“They're dedicated. They want to reach the right decision and do justice,” Dixon said.
“I always want to remind them — and I'm old-school on this — but it is an important service. It's kind of corny, but it's true,” Rhodes said.
“They bring all their life experience and common sense, and they get it right way more often than they get it wrong.”