Nevada jurors ask courts for more money, fewer delays

LAS VEGAS -- A panel evaluating Nevada's jury system has crafted a Jurors' Bill of Rights that asks courts for fewer delays and more money.

Top recommendations from the Jury Improvement Commission included a four-day jury week and increasing juror pay from $15 to $40 per day.

"A juror's time is precious," the report states. "Delays in jury selection and the progress of the trial should be avoided whenever possible and when delays are unavoidable, they should be minimized."

The wish list released Thursday was compiled during a series of public hearings that included testimony from lawyers, judges and former jurors.

Other tips to be passed on to state lawmakers and the Nevada Supreme Court include allowing jurors to ask questions of witnesses and cutting some mileage allowances to save money.

The report noted time problems that plagued the 2001 Margaret Rudin murder trial, when jurors were told to plan for three weeks but jury selection and trial lasted 10 weeks.

Exhibits weren't marked ahead of time and jurors were forced to wait outside court for hours while lawyers argued over evidence and motions. Rudin's defense lawyer was faulted for arriving late for court and for twice seeking a mistrial saying that he was unprepared.

Jurors also asked to be "reasonably compensated" for service. The report suggested funding the increase in jurors' daily compensation by cutting a $9 fee paid to those who report for jury duty but are not selected. It said Clark County would save about $224,000 a year if the idea was implemented.

The four-day jury week recommended by the panel would ask judges to hear all legal arguments in a single day, freeing the rest of the week for full trial. Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell said the idea would reduce complaints from jurors.

"They want to be here the fewest days possible and they want to get back to their real lives," Bell said.

Other committee recommendations included eliminating all statutory exemptions from jury duty with the exception of in-session legislators and staffs; providing jurors instructions on the law and copies of relevant laws prior to trial; and giving jurors notebooks to hold personal notes, jury instructions and exhibits.


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