Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frederick Fleming this morning denied a request to increase the amount of compensation paid jurors who hear the case against cop killer Maurice Clemmons’ alleged getaway driver.
Fleming agreed with attorneys for Dorcus Allen that the current $10-per-day rate is too low but said it is up to the state Legislature to change the law.
“It’s not the court’s call,” the judge said.
Mary K. High and Peter Mazzone wanted taxpayers to pay jurors with jobs their existing wages if their employer wouldn’t pay them while they’re on jury duty. High and Mazzone argued those not employed should get the state’s minimum wage of $8.27 per hour while they sit in a trial that is expected to last six weeks or more.
Not fairly compensating jurors for their time, especially during a long trial, causes many working people to miss jury duty due to financial hardship, High argued this morning.
That erodes a defendant’s constitutional right to be tried by a fair cross section of the community, she said.
“There often is a real hardship for working folks,” High said.
She pointed out that about 30 of the 76 people from which lawyers hope to pick a jury raised their hands this morning when asked if a six-week trial would produce a hardship for them.
Deputy prosecutor Stephen Penner said he supports more compensation for jurors but argued setting jury pay is the responsibility of state lawmakers.
“I agree it’s fraught with issues,” the judge said. “But it’s the elected representatives of the people’s call.”
Allen is charged as an accomplice with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder in the Nov. 29, 2009, deaths of Lakewood police Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Gregory Richards and Ronald Owens.
Prosecutors contend Allen drove Clemmons to and from the vicinity of a Parkland coffee shop where Clemmons gunned down the officers. They also contend Allen knew what Clemmons intended to do.
Allen has pleaded not guilty. He has said in court documents he did not know what Clemmons meant to do that Sunday morning.
Fleming’s decision this morning left him frustrated.
High said her client feels as though there’s a “bottomless pit of money” to prosecute him but not enough to pay jurors more so he can get a fair trial.