EVERETT — A juror who ignored his duty to hear evidence in a Snohomish County murder trial was given a break Monday by a judge who earlier threatened to jail him for contempt.
The juror, 18, first listened to Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes detail just how disastrous the man’s decision to skip court may have been in the trial of Dennis Watters.
After weeks of testimony, the jury the man had been sworn in to serve on was down to 12 people and a single alternate. On Wednesday, the panel voted to convict Watters of first-degree murder and other felonies linked to a July 2012 fatal shooting of Ryan Mumm, 20, at Blue Stilly Park in Arlington.
Downes asked the man, who was known as Juror No. 38 in the Watters’ case, what he would have said to Mumm’s mother if a mistrial had been declared last week as a result of there being too few people to reach a verdict.
“What kind of costs are involved here, and I don’t mean just money?” the judge said.
He also chided the reluctant juror for failing to speak up during voir dire. That’s the time when prospective jurors are asked to inform the court about issues that may make it difficult for them to serve, including financial hardship.
The juror, who graduated in June from Mariner High School, instead wrote an email to the court after being sworn to serve on the Watters jury. He said he wouldn’t be back because of “inconvenience.” As his attorney later explained in court, the juror was worried about the impact on his job at an auto body shop.
The court understands that not everybody works for companies that pay salaries when employees are called to serve on juries, Downes said. He noted that in this particular trial, more than 20 people were excused from service after filling out questionnaires informing the court of the hardships they faced.
“All you had to do was say something,” the judge said.
Jury service is one of the responsibilities that comes along with living in a free community ruled by law, Downes said.
If found in contempt, the juror could have been jailed for 30 days and fined $500. He thanked Downes after it was clear there would be no sanctions.
“Don’t ever do this again,” the judge said.
“I understand, your honor,” the juror said.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, firstname.lastname@example.org