Chowan Jury Commission

The Honorable Michael J. McArthur, Clerk of Superior Court in Chowan County (left) along with new jury commission members. They include Denise Bunch, Norma Simpson and Traude Faircloth. On the right is Assistant Clerk of Superior Court Kari Chappell.

Chowan County Clerk of Superior Court Mike McArthur held a swearing in ceremony in the courtroom of the 1980 Chowan County Courthouse on Tuesday, Oct. 19 for members of the 2022 – 2023 Chowan County Jury Commission.

The veteran Commissioners took their oaths of office in preparation for compiling a master list of Chowan County residents from which to pull jurors to sit during trials in Superior Court.

McArthur noted that each of North Carolina’s 100 counties has a Jury Commission composed of three members: one is appointed by the Chowan County Board of County Commissioners, one is appointed by the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge serving the county, and one is appointed by the Clerk of Superior Court.

Each member must be a registered voter in the county, and serves a two-year term.

Names selected for jury duty come from two sources: the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles’ list of licensed drivers and the list of registered voters supplied by the Chowan County Board of Elections.

Assistant Clerk of Superior Court, Kari B. Chappell assembles the voluminous lists (4491 names), and timeframes within which to manage the selection process.

During each trial session of either Civil or Criminal Superior Courts, a venire of jurors is selected from the master list, and those selected by a random computer process are asked to report for service on the first day of the session.

Chappell stated, “During our jury selection process, we have been mandated to ensure the safety and security of those appearing before our courts. Safety protocols issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Albemarle Regional Health Services, and the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court are followed and adhered to closely.”

After many court sessions were canceled during the height of the pandemic, gradually they were restarted under strict guidelines requiring face masks and social distancing.

Though awkward and sometimes confusing, McArthur and the Clerk’s Office modified locations and times to report in order to accommodate the basic Constitutional mandates to administer justice without favor, denial or delay.

Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.