Wisconsin Juror Fined Just $300 After Abandoning Deliberations To Party In Cancun

Ivana Samardzic, 20, is one lucky lady that her trip to Cancun was not shorten to a trip to the can. The Wisconsin juror was supposed to be deliberating a verdict in a felony shooting case when she simply left for the airport to go on vacation, calling the clerk from the airport to say that she left her vote in the jury room and did not want to lose out on the family trip. To the surprise of many, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge JD Watts (shown here) did not jail her for contempt but simply let the 11 member jury decide the case and fined Samardzic $300. The case that Samardzic abandoned involved a wonderfully named defendant, Spartacus Outlaw, who was accused in a felony shooting case.

Accounts described “Juror No. 4” as not saying much in the jury room deliberations before walking out to go party in Cancun. She is Serbian born.

Samardzic, 20, said that she was delighted to have escaped a jail sentence and added “I don’t know if this was worth it, but I did have a good time in Cancun.”

As for Outlaw, he was left with 11 jurors, which convicted him of being a felon in possession of a gun, but deadlocked on the charge of reckless injury with a dangerous weapon. The vote was 8-3 on the second charge. Not only did Outlaw have a reasonable expectation of having a full jury, so did the victim and his family. While Outlaw agreed to proceed with just 11 jurors and thus effectively waived the issue, Samardzic’s conduct is truly shocking. Her brother explained her legal argument succinctly, “I guess it’s just one of those situations where, you know, [expletive] happens.”

The decision by Watts to proceed under the civil rather than the criminal provision is a bit of a surprise for many. Watts, a former prosecutor, gave her a mild lecture and let the matter drop. I am not usually someone who advocates jail to concentrate the mind of citizens but I think a couple days in jail would have been a useful lesson for Samardzic on basic ethics and civics. In the very least, I would have liked to see a much higher fine. What do you think?

Source: Journal Sentinel

30 thoughts on “Wisconsin Juror Fined Just $300 After Abandoning Deliberations To Party In Cancun”

  1. 20 years old and working part time as a dietary aid. $300 is a lot of money for her. I don’t think she’ll do it again.

    excerpt:

    The 20-year-old juror who skipped out on deliberations in felony shooting case for a trip to Cancun was back in court Tuesday to try to explain herself and learn her fate.

    Ivana Samardzic said she just didn’t understand the requirements, and admitted she knew it was wrong to leave town Aug. 15, but said she’d saved a long time from her part-time job as a dietary aide to pay for the nine-day family vacation to Mexico, and she wasn’t going to miss it.

  2. Yes trial by jury is bone deep American important, and I’m way short of data here, but my piece would be about how powerless a citizen is made in the interest of the convenience of the court, while the court and its mechanics play plea bargain games which often render the juror’s service a total waste of time. This native born patriot, given what I’ve read of the defendant, may well have said Hasta la Vista, and also have left my ballot on the table!

  3. She needs to be thankful the judge was not the late District Judge Harold Cox of the Fifth Circuit. He once fined a juror (elderly black lady) $50.00 per minute for being late, even though she was actually early to the courthouse and was trying to find a parking place.

    During one trial, Judge Cox saw a passerby looking through the porthole window in the courtroom door. After the person looked through the window a second time, he had the guy dragged into his courtroom and fined him $500.00 for contempt of court.

    I could go on for a while with Judge Cox stories. I was going to add another anecdote about one incident of his behavior, but it would offend everyone here. Let me just say that he was Jim Eastland’s law partner before Big Jim became a US Senator. ‘Nuff said.

  4. what WHAT? A measured response from a court in the Age of Taser? Balance alone swings her out of jail with only $300. No harm, no foul.

  5. I have to wonder whether she had said anything to the judge about this trip during jury selection. Usually, the judge will tell prospective jurors the anticipated length of trial and even ask whether anyone has any conflicts. Anyone with a conflicting prepaid vacation is automatically off in my experience. It seems like a remarkably light sentence from the judge for skipping out like that. It makes me wonder if there’s not more to the story, such as a trial that went longer than anticipated.

  6. Catallus, It all depends on the type of case. Your blanket statement is, like virtually all blanket statements, incorrect.

  7. Spartacus Outlaw has prior convictions for Felon in possession and possession of a saw offed shotgun. Add a felony cocaine distribution and I think it’s safe to say this is a bad guy. No excuse and the fine was inadequate.

    I’ve served jury duty 3 times in my life. Two were really tough when I was operating my own biz. The last one was last Fall and I was retired. In the jury pool last Fall was Barry Alvarez, the AD @ the University of Wisconsin. I was reading the bio of Stan Musial who was from Alvarez’s old stomping grounds in western PA. We had a nice chat. I said to him, “This has got to be a tough time[Nebraska game was that week] for you to be here.” He just sighed and said, “It is, but this is the part of the deal of citizenship.”.

  8. Oh, I should mention. I really wish he had thrown the book at her. I would have asked how long her vacation was and given her an equal amount of time in the clink. Couldn’t this have resulted in a mistrial and a felon going free?

  9. “but I think a couple days in jail would have been a useful lesson for Samardzic on basic ethics and civics” and the beating will continue until morale improves. Fines and jail are a clear message that what you did was unacceptable but teaching ethics and civics? Almost every lawyer I have talked to thinks jurors are stupid and having served I have been insulted by everything from the unfriendly manner of the court from the “you have been selected” mailing to the elitist manner of the judge, lawyers, and court personnel. It may be your duty but jurors, at least most. deserve respect.

  10. I hate to admit it, but Catullus is partly right. While I think of it far more of a civic duty than involuntary servitude, I do know that one sure way to get off a jury is to mention you have a post-bach degree. I’m almost 33 and have served jury duty 3 times. The first time I was in the middle of undergraduate school and sat on a case. The 2nd time I was in graduate school and was dismissed immediately after that came out. The 3rd time, just last spring, I was called in for jury selection on 3 different cases and released on two of them immediately after answering that I have an MBA.

    Though, I suppose it could just be some attorneys feel intimidated by MBA’s?

    (settle down settle down, its more likely the attorneys just think they’re better)

  11. I think jury duty is a form of involuntary servitude where a gang of easily manipulated serfs and boobs are convinced to vote one way or another by people trained in the art of rhetoric and persuasion. That is why engineers and lawyers are hardly ever seated as neither side wants people with well-honed critical thinking skills to decide the fate of their client.

  12. So this woman made a mockery of the whole criminal justice system and the judge only fined her $300? Wow. In most cases it is the judge who makes a mockery of the whole criminal justice system and he or she simultaneously earns about $2,000 with benefits. I would say she should sue everyone involved for deprivation of her rights to equality before the law and then she could just retire to Cancun forever.

    We’re really lucky she wanted to become a citizen, huh? Otherwise she might have been an “illegal” and would never have served on a jury, deciding the fate of someone who was probably born and raised here. It strikes me that this should be turned into a comic opera by somebody — not me.

  13. It seems that the issue was really waived by both sides….. The case for a higher penalty for contempt…. I think 300 is a lot of money……

  14. But come on! It was Cancun man!

    Jury duty has been so bad mouthed for so long now that its considered an insult to be asked and torture to actually have to sit. Just another degradation of a citizens obligation to the society they live in. All Hail the Gaults in their perfect individuality, God Bless the Taggarts who lead the way.

    The judge would probably have caught heck for being too harsh had he put her in lock up for a weekend. But she earned it.

  15. No, I don’t believe she should have been incarcerated. The fine could have been more stiff, but no on the jail time. And Spartacus Outlaw? And he’s not a college professor?

  16. ” … I think a couple days in jail would have been a useful lesson for Samardzic on basic ethics and civics. In the very least, I would have liked to see a much higher fine. What do you think?

    Agreed, because that tactic is not simply one to punish, but is also to emphasize the importance of citizenship in jury matters.

    The bench is not the only player in upholding the appearance of justice, the jury pool must comply as well.

  17. A Solomon like decision. Finally, evidence of judicial wisdom. Everybody understands the importance of a trip to Cancun. Short list for elevation to a higher court?

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