Out-of-state students called to juries

Out-of-state students called to juries

By Samantha Porter

College students from outside Massachusetts have their fair share of inconveniences. Their IDs are often turned down at bars and they have to vote absentee. And on top of that, they can still get called for Massachusetts jury duty.

Jurors in Massachusetts must be 18 or older and either a resident of the state or an inhabitant, meaning they spend more than half their time in the state. This includes students who are residents of other states but spend the school year here.

Andrew Demarest, a resident of Pennsylvania and senior music industry major, received a summons this past fall to appear at the Suffolk District Court for jury selection, he was then summonsed again in January.

“I spent the day getting three weeks ahead on my marketing reading, read every newspaper from the Boston area and played snake on my iPod,” Demarest said. “By the end of the day, I was ready to put my head through the wall.”

Demarest is not alone. Several out-of-state students have spent their time the same way: sitting in a courthouse all day only to eventually be dismissed.

Students who have been summonsed for trial juries said they typically were dismissed because they were not needed. Others who were summonsed for grand jury duty were dismissed due to the three-month time commitment, which would interfere with school.

Stephen Williams, assistant co-op coordinator and member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said he thinks out-of-state jurors are not technically peers of the defendant, and should not be eligible to serve on juries.

“I think the notion of having a jury is to be evaluated by a jury of your peers. The question is: What are your peers?” Williams said. “Are out-of-state students your peers?”

Williams said the court would not ask a defendant to go to another state for his trial, because the jury would not be chosen from the area where the alleged events leading to the trial took place. Therefore, having a resident of another state serve on a jury here could possibly be a violation of venue.

Criminal justice professor Harvey Burstein disagrees, and said students have an obligation to serve, no matter where they are from.

“If a student satisfies the requirements to serve, that mere fact [of being a non-resident] should not prevent them from being able to serve,” Burstein said.

Emily Bhatti, a sophomore communications major and Massachusetts resident, has yet to be summonsed for jury duty, and is baffled that out-of-state counterparts have been instead.

“I don’t think it’s fair to have out-of-state students serve jury duty. If people aren’t from Massachusetts, then it’s not fair to have them judge a Massachusetts crime,” Bhatti said. “I’ve never been called, but I would not mind serving.

Leave a Reply