Name discrepancy can increase likelihood of jury summons

Lawrence resident Cindy Riling is no stranger to the jury box. Recently she was summoned for jury duty twice in a six-month period.

A Douglas County resident who has a driver’s license and is registered to vote is likely to be called for jury duty once every 13 years, if one goes strictly by percentages.

Then there is Cindy Riling, who has been called to serve three times in the past seven years – and twice within six months.

A possible reason is that her name is different on the two lists the county uses to cull names for potential jurors: county voter registration and state driver’s licenses.

The Lawrence resident is “Cindy Riling” on her voter registration card and “Cynthia Riling” on her driver’s license.

“It didn’t occur to me that I have two different names,” Riling said.

Call for jurors

Every four to six weeks, Douglas County Jury Coordinator Karen Curl sends a jury summons to 400 different names.

If a person’s name is slightly different on either list, Curl said the county’s jury software cannot differentiate whether the names belong to the same person.

“It’s a totally random system. With pulling from driver’s license and voter registration, all I do is put in numbers in the computer,” Curl said. “The computer will go out and grab (names) and bring them back.”

There are about 67,942 names Curl could potentially call upon to serve. With 400 summons sent about every four weeks, a total of 5,200 Douglas County residents are contacted each year for jury duty. That’s a likelihood of 7.6 percent, or once every 13 years.

The chance of actually serving as a juror is even less likely because trials are sometimes postponed, parties choose to settle out of court or jurors are excused with Curl’s or a judge’s approval.

If their number is called to report to the courtroom, potential jurors can be eliminated from the juror pool because of conflicts, such as knowing the defendant or attorneys.

Beverly Dolezal, 69, who has lived in Douglas County since 1962, is one of those people. She was called for jury service for a robbery trial recently – the first time in her more than 40 years of living in Lawrence. She ended up being ineligible to serve because she knew the defense attorney.

“I sort of thought it was strange that I had never been called before,” she said. “It was interesting. I kind of wanted to serve on a jury just to see what it was like.”

Under Kansas law, jurors do not have to serve within 12 months of their last time on a jury. Douglas County, which is its own judicial district, has a two-year jury service period. But if a juror is called to serve before the two-year period and he or she wishes to serve again, Curl said she won’t turn them away.

Atchison County, which is combined with Leavenworth County to form Judicial District 1, also has a two-year limit for jurors to serve. Both counties draw jurors’ names from the state driver’s license list. Despite this, Atchison County also has experience problems.

Earlier this year, a woman who had just served, was summoned again. Two versions of her name appeared on official lists.

“She got called twice, if not three times in a row,” said Donna Oswald, Atchison County District Court clerk. “And she had just served the term or two prior. For some reason, the computer didn’t distinguish the two different names as being the same person.”

So what can someone such as Riley do if they are on the juror candidate list more than once?

Riling, who works as a victim/witness advocate for the District Attorney’s office, said if she thinks of it, she will change her name when she’s due to renew her driver’s license in 2011.

But for now it’s not a problem.

“It’s not like this is a burden being called for jury duty,” she said. “As long as nobody calls me Cynthia, then it’s OK.”