Yet another way they’ll try to fleece you

The old “you missed jury duty, you’re about to be arrested but this can all be cleared up if you give me your Social Security number and credit information” scam is making the rounds again, warns State Court Administrator Carl Gromek.

Gromek, responding to a report in The Muskegon Chronicle about the reincarnation of this telephone identity-theft scam, says courts contact prospective jurors only by mail.

To avoid getting burnt, Gromek offers the following advice:

  • Be skeptical if you are told, “In order to avoid prosecution for missing jury duty, you must provide your social security number now so we can verify your information.”
  • Be suspicious if the person pressures you for immediate action or refuses to send written information for you to review.
  • Never give out your bank, credit card, or social security information over the phone to someone who calls you.
  • If you are uncomfortable, hang up, even if the caller threatens prosecution.
  • Report suspicious calls to local police.

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Oakland judge warned after jailing prospective juror

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A judge ordered a stay-at-home mom to sit through a murder trial and serve 24 hours in jail after she arrived an hour late for jury selection because she couldn’t find a baby sitter.

State officials intervened, and Carmela Khury was released at noon Monday after a day and a half as a spectator in Oakland County Circuit Judge Leo Bowman’s courtroom. He was told to drop the order or face sanctions.

“It was very upsetting,” Khury, 37, told The Detroit Free Press.

Bowman declined to comment through his staff in suburban Detroit.
Khury appeared in court an hour late last Thursday accompanied by her two children, an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old. She said her husband was working, her mother was having oral surgery, and she hadn’t been able to find an alternative sitter.

Bowman dismissed Khury from the jury pool but ordered her to return Friday and watch the trial, and told her she would have to serve 24 hours in jail at the end of the case.

“When you appear, don’t bring your children here. Do you understand that? … You have 24 hours to make arrangements,” the judge said.
Khury’s mother, recovering from oral surgery, watched the children while she attended the trial.

The State Court Administrative Office faxed a letter to Bowman telling him he had no authority to punish Khury. The Free Press said the agency also stepped in last year after complaints about the judge’s treatment of jurors.

A legal expert said Khury’s rights had been violated.

“When you are imposing punishment, and that’s what jail is, it becomes criminal contempt,” said Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University’s law school. “She’s entitled to due process, a hearing
and an attorney.”

Shocking evidence: Oakland County program helps jurors with trial trauma

Television police dramas routinely feature gruesome crime scenes and postmortems performed in the clinical hush of the autopsy lab.

The small-screen version of violent crime and its gory aftermath is portrayed with a graphic frankness that most of us absorb without blinking. We remind ourselves that it’s just actors playing corpses, assisted by skilled makeup artists and remarkably realistic special effects. We sometimes wish they weren’t quite so good at their craft.

But the storyline and the actors playing the detectives, scientists and suspects are intriguing. We get frequent breaks to focus on other things, like the newest cars, fashions and personal care products, or to make two-minute runs to the bathroom and the fridge.

All of this helps us overcome our natural aversion to blood and gore and to instead accept it as entertainment. And if we can’t handle it, there’s always something else to watch.

In the harsh reality of a criminal courtroom, however, the blood and gore are not illusions. The crime-scene and autopsy photos are real. The testimony is real. The dead, the survivors and the horrific details, are real.

And the everyday citizens drafted to be jurors can’t change the channel.

In Oakland County this week, reports the Detroit Free Press, a jury will hear a case in which the defendant is accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend in the head while she was sleeping with their baby. He then allegedly returned to scene, soaked the bed with gasoline where the dead woman and the still-alive child lay and set it on fire, killing the child.

Jurors in that case, however, will have the benefit of Oakland County’s Juror Debriefing Program. Run by the Common Ground Sanctuary in Royal Oak, trained counselors will be available to help jurors who want help coping with the stress and trauma of dealing with disturbing evidence.

For years, Common Ground has provided assistance to individuals and families in crisis. Program coordinator Margo Eby, writes the Free Press’s L.L. Braiser, felt that “[h]elping jurors seemed like the next logical step.”

Juror debriefing programs are becoming a national trend as more and more jurors report stress and trauma associated with hearing emotionally grinding cases. The National Center for State Courts has been researching the problem and has a reading list available.

It’s not legit: jury duty calls are scam

You’re fairly certain that you haven’t received a jury duty summons, but the person on the phone, who claims to be a court official, says that you have, you didn’t show up and now the judge is angry enough to issue an arrest warrant.

This can all be cleared up, the caller continues, if you’ll just provide your date of birth, your Social Security number and some credit card information.

Hang up! Call the cops and the court the caller claimed to represent, warns State Court Administrator Carl Gromek, pictured on the left.

It’s a scam.

The only way Michigan state courts contact prospective jurors is by mail, Gromek said. “Be aware: prospective jurors can call courts, but courts don’t initiate those calls. And courts never call prospective jurors to get their financial information.”

The Niles Daily Star reports that this scam is currently being run in Berrien County, in the southwest part of the state.

Gromek has these pointers to avoid have your pocket electronically picked:

  • Courts do not contact citizens by phone regarding jury duty. Be suspicious if a person calls claiming to be a court official or staff person.
  • Be skeptical if you are told, “In order to avoid prosecution for missing jury duty, you must provide your social security number now so we can verify your information.”
  • Be suspicious if the person pressures you for immediate action or refuses to send written information for you to review.
  • Never give out your bank, credit card, or social security information over the phone to someone who calls you.
  • If you are uncomfortable, hang up, even if the caller threatens prosecution.
  • Report suspicious calls to local police.