Florida jury panel dismissed over clerk of courts comment

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A panel of South Florida jurors was sent home after defense lawyers claimed that they were potentially poisoned by welcoming comments from the clerk of courts.

Broward County Clerk of Courts Brenda Forman quipped that those who do the crime have to serve the time when she spoke to a jury pool that arrived at the courthouse on Monday morning, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.

Forman’s office says the comments were taken “out of context,” while defense laywers say the phrase could encourage guilty verdicts.

The issue was raised by Assistant Public Defender Melinda Blostein, who was in the panel of prospective jurors on Monday, the newspaper reported.

She wrote a notarized letter notifying officials about the comments, which Blostein paraphrased.

A statement released by the clerk’s office late Monday said that Forman “takes the time to thank jurors for their service whenever possible,” adding that “it appears that some comments were taken out of context. The matter is resolved and will not be an issue going forward.”

Prosecutors asked Forman to revise her presentation, the newspaper reported.

More than 300 jurors heard the statements, but only 22 were dismissed. They had been assigned to a case in which an employee of Forman was the victim. Chief Administration Judge Jack Tuter said Forman was unaware that case was on Monday’s docket.

He told the newspaper that Forman’s comments would not have been enough on their own to justify striking all 300 jurors from service.