Deer Season Cited As Basis for Motion to Continue Trial Date

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To the list of possible reasons for seeking a continuance, you can now add the start of deer-hunting season, at least if you live in Arkansas. John Hall, the attorney for Bobby Junior Cox (not “Bobby Cox, Jr.,” but “Bobby Junior Cox”), argued in a motion filed this week that the trial of his client, currently scheduled for November 8, 2006, should be continued on the grounds that it will be impossible to get a jury to reflect a fair cross-section of the community on that date, as it is just before the start of deer season. Meaning that a lot of people just aren’t going to show up.

Based on Game and Fish Commission records and the 2000 census, Hall calculates that approximately “ten percent of the population of the State will be deer hunting when this trial is going on.” The motion concedes that “deer season” is not a statutorily recognized exemption from jury duty, but argues nonetheless that many deer hunters will make excuses or “just refuse to show up” because they “would rather be hunting than stuck in a courtroom in Cabot[, Arkansas].” He says that means that any venire summoned during that time would not reflect a “fair cross-section of the community” as the Sixth Amendment requires.

The copy of the motion I received was not signed, but local newspapers reported the story as well. The reports noted that Cox would likely be on trial for several weeks, as he and his codefendants are accused of operating a “continuing criminal organization” involving “illegal drugs, illicit sex and abuse of an inmate-labor program,” which sounds charming, as does the fact that the codefendants include the former police chief and his wife. The long trial would cause jurors to miss deer season. Still, court personnel in counties that have many more hunters than Lonoke County, where the motion was filed, said they had never heard of a trial being rescheduled because of deer season. A Commission spokesperson said that people typically planned their vacations and even their weddings around it, but he had no idea whether a judge would postpone a trial.

Although Hall’s percentage numbers are correct, one flaw in his argument may be that November 11-December 17 is only the season for hunters using modern guns. My research team has learned that the season for hunting with muzzleloaders is entirely different (October 14-22 and December 29-31), so maybe an accommodation can be made that would allow the Cox jury to take advantage of that. The use of muzzle-loading guns is actually pretty common in Arkansas, apparently, as the State’s figures show that almost fourteen thousand deer were killed with them last year. That number is down 24% from the year before, though, presumably due to the new breech-loading technology spreading throughout the state.