Jailed over jury duty

A Berrien County man was recently jailed for failing to show up for jury duty.

Frank Kirschner says his only crime is being forgetful.

Kirschner is a 51-year old self employed manufacturing representative, who has never been in legal trouble before.

This week, he spent 15-hours behind bars in the Berrien County Jail, where fellow inmates taught him how to make a pillow out of a roll of toilet paper and his shoe.

Kirschner missed two court appearances related to jury service in the past two years.

The most recent was September 4th.

Kirschner says he is forgetful and unorganized by nature.

Until now, those traits had never landed him behind bars.

“I just felt that by telling the truth that things would fare well or go accordingly,” said Kirschner. “Obviously this is how they go when you miss jury duty you're going to go to jail.”

Kirschner admits that he messed up, but he says it wasn’t on purpose, and at no time did he try to dodge his responsibility. “I’m guilty of being disorganized,” he said.

Kirschner expected to be fined or sentenced to perform community service. “It’s not something that anyone takes lightly, I certainly don’t take it lightly” he said, “but I never expected that the outcome could be this severe.”

The experience left Kirschner feeling that he was "taken advantage of."
One of the lessons he says he learned was to never go to court without a lawyer, no matter how minor the offense seems.

Kirschner’s says his problems began in 2005 when he was scheduled for jury duty in September of that year. That’s when Kirschner says he was summoned to his family’s home in Connecticut because his father took ill. Kirschner admits that his mind was somewhere else, and he neglected to inform the court that he would be absent.

In June of 2007 Kirschner was the subject of a police traffic stop. That’s when he found out that he had an outstanding warrant for failing to show for jury duty.

Kirschner entered a guilty plea to the charge and was told he would have to serve as an on call juror in August. He says he took great pains to make sure he was informed and available for jury duty during that time…but that he never was called to serve.

What Kirschner overlooked was a written document ordering him to appear in court on September 4th for sentencing.

When Kirschner found out he had missed the appointment, he came to court on the 10th of September. That’s when a judge ordered Kirschner to spend the night in jail.

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