Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Defense Lawyers Say Jurors Deserve A Pay Raise To Minimum Wage

Kevin P. Casey
AP Photo
Joseph McEnroe appears court before he pleaded not guilty to six murder charges at the King County Courthouse, in Seattle on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008.

A group of defense lawyers argue that when you are called to be on jury duty, you are working and therefore should be paid minimum wage. These attorneys say a diverse cross section of society would sign up for jury duty if the pay was better.

Katie Ross is one of the lawyers who is behind an effort to increase the pay for jurors. She is on Joseph McEnroe’s defense team. McEnroe is accused of murdering six people on Christmas Eve in 2007 near Carnation, with his then girlfriend Michele Anderson.

Ross and two of her colleagues say McEnroe, who is working class, would have a fair trial if people on the jury came from a similar background. Ross says the way to ensure people like this can serve for a trial that is expected to last up to five months is to pay them the minimum wage of $9.32 instead of $10 a day.

“It’s important that all segments of our community feel invested in our government and feel that when members of their class, their race, their families are arrested and put on trial that at least some of the jurors will be part of the community that those defendants come from,” Ross said.

Ross and her colleagues submitted a motion to the State Supreme Court arguing jurors are, in fact, employees and are entitled to minimum wage under state law.  

Hugh Spitzer, a law professor at the University of Washington, says the argument is interesting, but the state’s Constitution won’t let the debate get too far.

“The constitution makes a distinction between being an employee or an officer and serving as a witness or a juror, which is a duty that a person has,” Spitzer said.

The state Supreme Court will review the motion on Jan. 6. Jury selection for McEnroe’s case is already underway.

Data from King County shows that if every person who served on a jury last year was paid minimum wage, the cost would have been $4.5 million versus the $700,000 under the current system.  

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.