On Oct. 1, I and 59 other Missoula citizens answered the summons for jury duty at the Missoula County Courthouse for Judge Don Larson's court.
We all took time from our productive lives to fulfill our civic duty. After entering the courtroom, we were provided details of the case before us. The defendant, a homeless man, had been charged with an attempted daylight rape on the Courthouse lawn on May 27. The local news reported that his actions had been in full view of several witnesses who tried to stop him. A police officer also witnessed “the crime.”
Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen from our number to hear the case following a four-hour selection process. The rest of us were dismissed halfway through the lunch hour. The taxpayer's cost in juror fees was around $2,000. This does not include lost productivity, court costs and the cost of the public defender.
The following morning Judge Larson declared a mistrial and ordered the case be retried in December, guaranteeing that 60 more citizens' lives would be affected.
Missoula is known statewide as the bighearted city, a soft touch. But the price we pay for our compassion sure can be costly.