Letters threatening jail for skipping jury during Hurricane Matthew sent out

A Central Florida woman received a letter Wednesday, saying she failed to report to jury duty and threatening a $100 fine, contempt proceedings and jail time.
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However, Terri Morrell’s jury duty reporting date was Oct. 6, which is when Hurricane Matthew hit the area.

"Well, people may not remember what happened on Oct. 6 of this year, but if you go back and look there was a little hurricane that was meandering up the coast; Hurricane Matthew," the Apopka resident said.

On that day, the Orange County Courthouse was closed, and the city was under a mandatory curfew. Morrell phoned in for duty on Oct. 6, and a message stated that jurors were excused.

"When I saw the letter, being a good citizen, my blood pressure started to rise," she said.

Channel 9 learned that the jury duty letters were sent out in error and on the taxpayers’ dime.

"My concern was, everybody must be getting this letter. I'm not just one person. There was an entire jury pool that was receiving this letter and thinking about the taxpayers, the money, why it happened, why there aren't systems in place?" she said.

Officials said jury staff forgot about the court closure for the hurricane and the computer system automatically sent out “failure to appear” notices to 200 people.

"Somebody at the court system should have been able to stop the letter from going out before worrying a lot of people, unnecessarily," she said.

A jury service representative said she would change Morrell’s status from “failed to report” to “excused.”

Courthouse officials said they were calling all of those affected to explain the situation, and to change the statuses of those summoned for jury duty to “excused.”