Prospective jurors who caused mistrial could be held in contempt

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SUMMIT COUNTY (News4Utah) –  Prospective jurors who failed to show up for jury duty in Summit County could be in trouble.

As a result, the 36 people who failed to show caused a mistrial in a high-profile rape case.

“It’s rare that you don’t have enough jurors to actually go forward,” said Kent Morgan, a former prosecutor and now defense attorney.

But it did happen.  One of the attorneys for the accused has been practicing law for 40 years.

“(I’ve seen) nothing like this ever before,” said Loni Deland, attorney for Randall Flatlip.

Mark Thomas, the Uintah County attorney said taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the actions of the 36.

“It’s discouraging,” said Thomas.  “All parties were prepared to move forward and we would have liked to move forward.”

The case was moved to Summit County after attorneys agreed the defendants couldn’t get a fair trial in Vernal.  It’s now moved for a third time.  Court records show it will be tried in Salt Lake County.

All this because 36 people failed to report for jury duty.
Morgan said in a worse case scenario, they could be held in contempt by the judge.

“I’ve seen judges hold these people immediately in contempt and taken into custody by the bailiff,” Morgan said. “He does on occasion put people who are contentious and they will go to jail.”

Defendants do have a constitutional right to a speedy trial and Deland says that’s not happening.

“My client has been in jail now for 20 months as have the other defendants,” he said.  “It’s a huge disappointment for them.  They’re doing time that we believe, that this is a very good case.  We believe it’s going to be an acquittal.”

A spokesman for the court said it will be up to the Third District presiding judge to decide what action to take.  Geoff Fattah said the judge has discretion to place them back into the jury pool for other trials but with a warning.  He also said the judge could bring them in on an order to show cause where the juror would have to explain why he/she failed to show.

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