TAMPA — Round up extra folding chairs and order more pickles for Cuban sandwiches at the courthouse snack bar. Chairs, pickles and patience could be in short supply today when almost a thousand people are expected for jury duty.
Three major trials starting at the same time have caused the jury services office to mail out 3,300 jury summonses, about 1,000 more than usual. Because only a quarter of those who receive summonses actually show up, the Hillsborough County Courthouse expects to play host to about 900.
It's not a record, said Lisa Mann, director of jury services, but it's a lot. All three of the big trials are expected to be lengthy ones.
The most publicized is a defamation lawsuit brought by Tampa radio personality Todd "MJ" Schnitt against his old morning-show rival, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge James Arnold has requested a pool of 80 jurors for that trial, which is expected to last three weeks.
There's also a civil trial involving the family of deceased Jacqueline Loyd, which is suing the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., alleging that cigarettes caused her death.
That trial, before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Bernard Silver, also is predicted to last three weeks. He has asked for a pool of 150 jurors.
On the criminal side, a notorious 2002 murder case, which had resulted in a death penalty conviction, is being retried by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Kimberly Fernandez. The case involves Khalid Pasha, accused of killing Robin Canady, his wife of less than one month, and her daughter, Ranesha Singleton.
In 2007, Pasha was sentenced to death for those murders, but the Florida Supreme Court ordered a new trial because the original trial judge had not allowed Pasha to dismiss his lawyer and defend himself. Pasha, now 69, will represent himself this time. Judge Fernandez has asked for a pool of 200 jurors.
Jury services director Mann said the reporting schedule for prospective jurors has been staggered so they won't pile up in the hallways.
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.