SHERMAN, TX - A Denison man who skipped out is now behind bars and as Victoria Maranan reports the Grayson County District Attorney has a strong warning for anyone else who might think about doing the same.
Nineteen year old Austin Caplinger was held in contempt of court Wednesday for missing jury duty at a criminal trial a month ago. He's also been sentenced to seven days in jail, a $500 fine and 30 hours of community service in the next six months.
While it may sound harsh, Grayson county district attorney, Joe Brown, said the punishment was fair.
“When a trial gets rescheduled, there's attorney time that's wasted, the judge's time was wasted, all the other juror's time gets wasted and there's a lot of money that goes out. So we feel it's important to have a consequence for this because we don't want it to happen again," Brown said.
On November 15th, Caplinger was chosen as one of the 12 jurors to serve in a D.W.I. trial. The next day, the other eleven jurors showed up, but Caplinger did not.
The court bailiff called both Caplinger's home and cell phone numbers several times, but could not reach him.
Because of his absence, by law, the presiding judge had to declare a mistrial. At the contempt hearing, Caplinger testified that he was sick the day of the trial and that he was unable to call the Court because he did not know know the number. He also denied that the bailiff called both his home and cell phone.
District clerk, Kelly Ashmore said the jury summons contains the court's contact information.
“Too many ways of communication at this day and time to say that 'I had no way to communicate with anybody at the courthouse.' He has our jury summons to tell him he had to be here. On that summons, there are emails, there are three phone numbers," Ashmore said.
Brown said this could have been avoided if Caplinger just called the court. He also says when a juror is a no show, it's not only a hassle, it costs taxpayers thousands of dollars.
“It got pretty expensive and we're very understanding of people's conflicts. But if this person just called and let the court know, we could've got an alternate and we could've done something aside from rescheduling a trial," Brown said.