ILNews

Judge penalizes no-show juror

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A Lake County criminal court judge took a former juror to task Tuesday for skipping jury duty during a murder trial this spring.

Superior Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. found a 20-year-old Cedar Lake resident in contempt of court and sentenced him to three hours in the county jail, as well as ordering him to carry a 24-inch by 24-inch sign saying "I failed to appear for jury duty" from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Monday outside the Crown Point courthouse.

That will be a warning to any other prospective jurors who might consider not showing up for their civic duty, the judge said. Judge Stefaniak says this matter has been a problem in Lake County and he's aware of it being an issue statewide. More courts are cracking down with fines or penalties, such as in Marion County where judges last year began threatening and issuing fines, community service, and jail time for those who fail to appear when summoned.

In this case, Judge Stefaniak called former juror Michael Leibengood back for a contempt hearing to answer for his no-show conduct on the second day of a murder trial in May. He was replaced by an alternate. The judge told Leibengood he didn't believe his excuse of getting a flat tire on the way to court, and that the juror had lied on a questionnaire about not being charged or convicted of any misdemeanor or felony crimes.

Bailiffs took Leibengood into custody and he served the three-hour jail sentence before lunch, the judge said.
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