Reprint from  
Published Sunday, April 10, 2016

How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?

These words are spoken throughout the United States of America every week in a courtroom.

Last month, I was informed that 85 subpoenaed individuals failed to show up for court in St. John Parish in seven days. I was quoted in the media last week saying, “It is not only disrespectful to the St. John Parish criminal justice system but causes a huge backlog. SJSO will immediately start aggressively seeking those who failed to appear in court as scheduled … from this day forward.”

The St. John Sheriff’s Office recently publicized the list of individuals with warrants in our system to our facebook page. This was done simply in an effort to notify citizens who might not realize or might not remember that they have some unfinished business with our department.

It worked for some. For others, the calls for advice on what to do or assurance that they would not be arrested once they came in to take care of their business is still going on.

If you are subpoenaed for jury duty, as a citizen, you should take this obligation very seriously. We see on the news or read on the Internet about a crime that has taken place. The headlines are very clear when a crime happens.

I hear people say that they are fed up with crime. But when it’s time to sit on a jury and make a decision about whether justice has been served in an arrest, many citizens want no part of that.

Then I remember my favorite quote, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” It’s time for more citizens see and understand the process of the judicial system and take it very seriously.

In the past several months, we have gotten a high number of plea bargains. When a criminal opts out of going to trial and pleads guilty, this is a sign of good police work.

It’s something we rarely read about in the newspaper. But in cases where defendants wish to go to trial, the citizens have to step up and fill the jury box. And even convictions in a trial don’t frequently get good media coverage.

It’s time we start working together to keep our parish safe. It’s not just the duty of police officers, the district attorney and the judges to keep our community safe. Everyone has to do their part, even if it’s going to court to serve on a jury.

So here we go again. The names of citizens failing to show up for court will be posted again this week.

For those who come to court as a potential jury member and fulfill their civic duty, we appreciate you. For those who showed up for your scheduled court date and took care of their business, that’s great.

For those who chose to disrespect the St. John Parish Criminal Justice system and failed to show up for court, you have a couple of options; contact the District Attorney’s Office to get your matter resolved as soon as possible, or stay inside your home … permanently.