Postmortem call to serve

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Staff Writer

Darrell Wolfe was caught off guard when he received an official-looking envelope last November addressed to his wife. It was a juror qualification questionnaire from the First District Court requiring a response from Flavia Wolfe within 30 days.

Problem is, Flavia died last summer.

“I wrote them explaining she was deceased and sent a copy of the death certificate,” Wolfe said.

Case closed, he figured.

But it wasn’t. A few weeks later Wolfe received another letter at his Coeur d’Alene residence from the courts, also addressed to his wife. Confident of the envelope’s contents and satisified with his previous response, he threw it out.

Then came the third notice, delivered this week and ordering Flavia Wolfe to appear in court by March 6 or face potential penalties of up to $500 or five days in jail.

Flabbergasted, Wolfe questioned the procedural competence of the jury duty system.

“It’s a bit of a waste of government resources,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe’s predicament appears to be the upshot of a snag in the system, said Pete Barnes, Kootenai County jury commissioner.

“He may have mailed something, but as of today I still don’t have anything back from him,” Barnes said Friday. “The post office is a pretty busy place and I don’t want to place blame on them or anything but we’ve received nothing.”

Barnes said jury commissioners strive to accommodate citizens who have valid reasons for not being able to serve on a jury. These include, of course, death. Other valid reasons are people older than 70, younger than 18 or who aren’t a Kootenai County resident.

After learning about the mixup, Barnes said he reached out to Wolfe.

“Things like this are pretty easy to resolve, but we need to hear from people when there are problems,” he said. “I spoke with Darrell, entered the deceased code and it’s a done deal. It was a really easy fix.”

Though not common, Barnes said issues involving faulty juror notifications do occasionally arise within the county’s increasingly busy jury selection system.

In 2018, more than 200 jury panels were assembled in Kootenai County and there were 134 jury trials, Barnes said.

“Things are really picking up,” he said. “Last year was the highest total we’ve ever had for juries.”

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