Going Armed At Jury Call


Waco – An ongoing dispute between jury selection activists and local criminal judges heated up on Monday, January 5, at a jury call.

Members of the local chapter of Fully Informed Jurors Association on Monday defied an order of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office when they handed out brochures to prospective jurors in an alley leading to the jurors entrance.

At least one member, Matthew Barnes, carried his holstered .45 ACP semiauto pistol.

According to Sgt. Steve Janics of the Courthouse Security detachment, the chief concern is that members go armed in the alley between 5th and 6th streets that divides the Courthouse from the Courthouse Annex and Jail buildings.

I don’t care if he carries it concealed, but I don’t know if he’s been through a retention training program, as we have. If someone gets the gun away from him, there wouldn’t be any telling what might happen. I don’t want him getting hurt, don’t want a juror getting hurt, or any of our men getting hurt,” said Sgt. Janics. “He looks like a cop.”

Leafleting may take place outside the alleyway, around the sidewalk perimeter of the courthouse complex, which has been declared a “closed campus” by order of County Judge Scott Felton.

Sgt. Janics reported that his superiors took no immediate action.

When contacted, Barnes did not comment, nor did he reply. In previous conversations, he has mentioned his handicapped status, and the lack of handicapped parking spaces now that the order is in effect.

To alleviate safety concerns, the City of Waco closed the alley to traffic and turned it over to McLennan County; the Commissioners Court declared it closed to foot traffic on jury selection days to all but those carrying juror summons cards.

The brochures explain to veniremen called for jury service the process of selection – or deselection – of a panel of 12 from a venire summoned as to who will decide to either convict, or acquit on the basis their finding of facts, as presented.

According to the literature, the Judge and members of the prosecution and defense will prepare a set of jury instructions interpreting the law and instructing the jury that if they find a certain set of facts, they will convict on each count; if not, they are to acquit. The brochures explain the Code of Criminal Procedure and give citations of case law related to a venireman’s rights to ask questions in return.

Attorneys examining the venire are allowed an unlimited number of strikes for cause, and a finite number of peremptory challenges, which provides more in capital cases. Following their examination, the first 12 veniremen who are not stricken from the list are then empaneled as a jury.  

All verdicts must be unanimous in criminal cases, the finding beyond a reasonable doubt, unlike civil law, in which a majority of votes based on a preponderance of evidence will suffice to arrive at a verdict.

The agenda of the FIJA is to nullify indictments in cases in which they believe the law is unjust. Offenses such as marijuana possession should be acquitted, they hold. Such associations have sprung up all across the nation. They have been especially effective in the western states of Montana and Idaho.

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