“I think that’s part of our civic duty doing that,” Wykle said. “There’s just so much information (in the juror summons questionnaire) that I just don’t think is pertinent.”
A few of the “red flags” that sparked Wykle’s concerns about the juror form are questions about his wife’s maiden name, where she is employed and what insurance company they use.
“I was called about 15 years ago for jury duty, and I don’t remember filling out anything like this,” he said. “I’ve lived in Georgia for about 30 years and I’m sure all this stuff is available to them without any effort at all.”
However, Frank Baker, the director of State Court Services for Cobb, said the information is relevant for the court system and that the questions were created by state court judges in Cobb and based on Georgia Code 15-12-11.
“For example, if there is a civil case involving a wreck, where insurance companies would be parties … you could have someone on the jury who are policy holders or stakeholders for that insurance company,” he said.
Baker also said the questionnaire speeds up what the court calls the “voir dire” process, which is when attorneys for each party question jurors.
“If they aren’t answered in this form, it would be answered in the courtroom in jury selection,” Baker said. “They are questions that the parties in the cases, whether civil or criminal, are entitled to know.”
The information submitted in the questionnaire is confidential and is not disbursed to anyone outside of the court proceeding, according to the state code.
The code also states that if a prospective juror fails or refuses to answer the questionnaire, the clerk of courts could report it to the court that has the authority to provide a subpoena for information.
Wykle, who was summoned in April and appeared in court on May 7 but was never selected for a trial, said that is another reason why he thinks very few people speak up about the prying questionnaire.
For his part, Wykle refused to give all the information the form asked for.
“I did not complete filling it out,” he said. “I called the court’s office and when she said I didn’t have to fill it out, I stopped.”
When he appeared in court in early May he said one of the defendants’ attorneys asked him a few questions that weren’t filled out in the form, but Wykle said they weren’t as “in depth” as the questions on the form.
“I think it scares a lot of people … if they don’t fill it out, they think they’ll get locked up,” he said.
In speaking with his neighbors and friends, Wykle also said that while none of them remember being called to jury duty, they too wouldn’t have filled out the form in its entirety.
“The friends that I talked to said there is no way that they would fill out the questionnaire,” he said. “Of the 20 or 30 people that I talked to, they said they wouldn’t voluntarily give up the information.”
Each week-long term, there are around 170 people summoned for jury duty but about 80 people show up because of possible legal exemptions, medical problems or relocation, Baker said.
“If they don’t show up, an effort is made to contact them and reschedule,” he said. “In rare occasions, there could be some intervention by the courts as far as having the person brought in, but those are far and few between.”
Those summoned have 14 days within receiving the questionnaire to fill it out and return it to the court. Once selected, a juror is paid $25 per day that they are called in for service.
Some of the cases a juror may be determining in Cobb State Court include misdemeanor criminal cases such as traffic cases or civil cases such as medical malpractice.