SANDPOINT — Jury service in Bonner County has grown kinder and gentler over the years.
Jurors picked for trial or grand jury panels in cases dealing with unthinkable depravity or cruelty are offered a post-proceeding debriefing session with a certified counselor, according to Bonner County Jury Commissioner Chris Quayle.
“It happens after every case where jurors may have been traumatized,” said Quayle, who helped implement the program with 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan, in addition to the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Advocate Services Team.
Quayle said the program may be the first of its kind in the state.
The program followed the successful prosecution of an astonishingly horrific abuse case.
“The debriefing is what I consider to our most satisfying accomplishment,” said Quayle, who’s hoping a similar debriefing can be offered to court staff who are exposed graphic testimony and evidence.
Quayle’s office also set up a system where survivors of abuse who are picked as potential jurors can speak privately with a judge about their experiences, away from the rest of the jury pool and trial onlookers.
“It’s their right to have a private conversation,” said Quayle.
Quayle, who’s retiring as jury commissioner after 14 years, said it’s been her goal to educate jurors and keep them comfortable as they undertake what could prove to be uncomfortable task — judging the guilt or innocence of one of their peers.
“Our (juror) orientation process is much more sophisticated than it used to be,” said Quayle, who began working as in-court deputy clerk in 2001.
Quayle also established a jury assistance fund, which is sustained by jurors who forgo their compensation for service. The fund has been used to help a juror square away child care, transportation to court or meals.
Quayle said she’s heard about every excuse in the book as to why a potential juror is unable to serve.
“There are so many. Just when you think you’ve them all, you haven’t,” said Quayle.
A prevalent contemporary reason offered why a jury is unable to serve is because they recently acquired a puppy which needs to be let out periodically.
Intentionally ducking jury service can put a sheriff’s deputy at your doorstep, although Quayle said it is a last resort that follows repeated attempts of establishing contact with a prospective juror.
“There’s nothing more frightening than having a sheriff’s deputy at your door and I don’t want to send them there,” said Quayle.
However, Idaho Code requires Quayle to follow through on unreturned jury questionnaires.
“We give the public miles and miles and we try to be as accommodating as we can,” said Quayle.
Those who receive misdirected jury notices are urged to return them to the post office so the county knows the person no longer resides at the address on file.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.