Judge to Mom on Jury Duty: No Babysitter? You're Going to Jail!
It was a very bad day, indeed, for Carmela Khury when she was called for jury duty in a Michigan murder case: Her mother, who was watching her two kids, had to have emergency oral surgery. Then, her backup child care fell through.
Khury called the office of Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman, according to The New York Times, and explained her predicament. Still, she was ordered to show up for jury selection at 9 a.m. and was warned that if she didn't, she could be arrested. So Khury gathered up her 8-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter and took them with her.
She showed up at 9:25 a.m. with her children in tow, and she was excused from her duties. But things didn't end there: Bowman ordered her to sit through every day of the trial as an observer. Additionally, Bowman sentenced her to 24 hours in jail for contempt of court after the trial ended.
Khury did as she was told, reports the Detroit Free Press, and sat through two days of the trial while her mom, still recovering, watched the kids.
"It was very upsetting," Khury, 37, tells the newspaper.
The State Court Administrative Office intervened on her behalf and scolded the judge for his outrageous behavior. An administrator from the office sent a letter to Bowman, telling him he had no authority to order such a punishment and threatening him with sanctions if he didn't cut it out.
It seems that Bowman has a temper. According to the Free Press, Khury isn't the only potential juror to run afoul of the judge during this particular trial. He also detained a small-business owner who said the trial would create a hardship for his company. In the past, Bowman has jailed a medical student who said his exams would interfere with his jury duty, as well as a woman who asked to be excused from a sex case because of her personal experience with sexual assault.
He also held another mom who said her husband's overseas travel would create a hardship for her family because she didn't have access to child care for her two young children.
Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, tells the Free Press no judge has the right to hand down jail time without due process. It is, Henning says, a violation of constitutional rights.
"When you are imposing punishment, and that's what jail is, it becomes criminal contempt," Henning tells the newspaper. "She's entitled to due process, a hearing and an attorney."
Is a lack of child care a valid reason to get out of jury duty, or was this judge right on the money?
Related: (Imagined) Text Messages From Famous Trials
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