MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The truth about just how much money and how often juries are being sequestered in Shelby County has taxpayers up in arms.
When juries are sequestered they are shut out from the world. They stay in a hotel and are under the watch of sheriff's deputies 24 hours a day during the trial. It's expensive, and Shelby County residents paying their taxes were surprised to learn how often and how much of their tax money is spent on sequestered juries.
Taxpayer John Williams found it "ridiculous. We don't have to spent money like that."
Tagela Mills was on a sequestered jury several years ago. "We could probably look at it different way and spend money a little better," she said. "By the end of the week we were tired of eating."
And there's a lot of eating going on. Shelby County spent almost half a million dollars on hotel rooms and meals for sequestered jurors and deputies in just over a one year period.
Judges say the main reason they sequester juries is possible media coverage.
When asked why jury instruction to not watch TV or read the paper wasn't enough, Shelby County Judge Chris Craft replied, "You don't have to trust them if we sequester the jury."
Williams didn’t like that answer. He said, "That's just a waste of money; if it's just for publicity I'm against that and I think other taxpayers are against that too."
The truth is we did find one taxpayer who supports spending all that money.
Glen Brown told abc24.com, "They need somewhere to eat. It should be a good meal. They shouldn't be given Krystals or stay in a roach motel."
The majority of taxpayers we talked with think judges are wasting money, but admit ending up on a sequestered jury might not be so bad.
Taxpayer Norma Green said, "I would love to enjoy that meal ... or two!"
The truth is sequestered juries are the norm in Shelby County, but are rarely, if ever, in New York, LA, Detroit or Nashville. Those cities have crime too.