Judge fines, lectures truant jurors

BURBANK — Panorama City resident Erik Herrera didn’t respond to four jury summonses because his anti-establishment dad threw away the jury notices when they arrived in the mail, he told a judge Tuesday.

Herrera’s father, whom he lives with, discarded the notices because he has a “sour attitude toward the judicial process” after his brother’s 2001 murder, Herrera said at the hearing set for people who skipped jury duty.

Herrera also blamed his chronic insomnia and short-term memory loss, which is the result of a traffic collision, for forgetting the jury service dates.

He was supposed to report Nov. 4 for jury duty, but he said he went to vote instead. Herrera, who said he was an actor, remembered later that day that he had serve jury duty, he said.

“I would like to throw myself at the mercy of the court,” Herrera said.

After hearing Herrera’s excuse for not serving jury duty, Judge Michelle Rosenblatt ordered him to pay a $250 fine and go to jury duty.

Of 193 people who were sent notices to appear Tuesday at the Burbank Superior Court to explain why they didn’t serve jury duty, only eight showed up, including Herrera, Rosenblatt said.

“Jury service is a very, very important both right and obligation of citizenship,” Rosenblatt told the eight people.

The jurors are residents in the North County District, which includes La Crescenta, Glendale and Burbank, said Patricia Kelly, Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman.

Failing to respond to jury notices could result in a $250 fine for the first offense, $750 for the second, and ignoring three years of jury summons could cost $1,500, she said.

The 193 people were summoned to attend the hearing Tuesday known as a jury sanction after they didn’t reply to three jury service notices that were mailed on different dates to their last recorded address, said Fran Johnson, a county court jury services administrator.

If the potential jurors don’t attend the hearing, they will be fined and will get a new jury service date.

“Our goal is not to sanction people, but to help them understand jury service,” Johnson said.

But only 5% to 10% of jurors who are summoned to the hearing show up, she said.

They find that a lot of people have moved, making attendance at the hearings low, Johnson said. And jurors who don’t respond to jury summonses are often not U.S. citizens and don’t speak English, she said.

The first notice Glendale resident Hasmik Allahverdi received was Oct. 6, 2006, Rosenblatt said.

But the jury notices were sent to her old address, Allahverdi told Rosenblatt. And she doesn’t have another mailing address because she said she recently moved again.

But when Rosenblatt asked her where someone could send a letter to her, Allahverdi said the letter could be sent to her old address.

Rosenblatt ordered her to appear Dec. 8 for jury duty and fined her $100.

But if Allahverdi attends jury duty, Rosenblatt said the fine would be rescinded.

 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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