Increase Juror Participation by Updating Jury Wage Laws
Last week, jury selection began in the case against James Holmes for the 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. Deliberations on jury selection alone could last until May or June and trial could last another five months. The jurors chosen will have to grapple with intense emotional and legal questions over this extended period of time. And because of Colorado’s outdated jury wage laws, the jurors may also have to face significant financial stress.
In lengthy trials, Colorado law only offers $50 per day to jurors, many of whom may have to rely on this compensation instead of their salaries or hourly wages. This amounts to less than they could earn being paid Colorado’s minimum wage for a full workday. To resolve this issue, the ALEC model policy “Jury Patriotism Act” creates a lengthy trial fund supported by nominal filing fees that would allow jurors to be paid up to $300 per day based on their recent earnings. The goal of the model policy is to alleviate the burdens of jury service, encourage juror participation and foster more diverse jury pools. Diversity in juries has been shown to beget fairer verdicts.
Statutes based on the ALEC Jury Patriotism Act are on the books in at least 14 states, including the lengthy trial fund in Arizona, Mississippi and Missouri. So far, the laws have been successful at lessening the burdens of jury service and achieving much higher rates of jury participation.