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Potential juror who left before trial to be punished

Updated: February 25, 2012 8:17AM



A prospective juror in a fatal drunken driving crash was ordered to show up with a sign proclaiming his failure to appear for the next two Mondays.

The juror, referred to in the online docket as Juror No. 16572 in Group 41, who left after lunch during jury selection Dec. 5 for the trial of Jeffery Cleary of Valparaiso, told Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. he wasn’t thinking.

“I’ve never been in trouble before,” said the 22-year-old man, who told the judge his mother “was about to lose her job” and acknowledged he didn’t follow the judge’s instructions during the jury selection process.

“Help me understand what it is about my words, ‘You’ve got to come back,’ that you don’t understand?” Stefaniak said. ”I’m at a loss to understand why you did what you did.”

“I wasn’t really paying attention,” said the man, who is unemployed and whose mother didn’t lose her job.

Stefaniak said the man was “the very person who should be on a jury. You’ve got nothing else to do.”

Stefaniak said he would instruct court administrator Martin Goldman to put the man’s name back in the juror pool, as he did with another prospective juror on Jan. 9 who hadn’t fulfilled her jury service obligation.

Stefaniak said the man must show up in court at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, both jury-selection days, with a sign, “I failed to appear for jury duty,” and walk in front of the courts building until the bailiffs release him.

Jurors convicted Cleary, 65, of misdemeanor drunken driving counts and infractions. Stefaniak may determine Jan. 30 whether prosecutors can retry Cleary on the highest level felonies.

Prosecutors alleged that Cleary had a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.15 percent when he crashed into a service truck, crushing Philip Amsden, 63, who was repairing a flat semitrailer tire in 2010 near the Ridge Road ramp to Interstate 65 in Hobart.



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