Friday, October 22, 2004

Jailed, freed, ex-juror missing



By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

A woman who spent time in jail for lying to a judge to get out of jury duty could find herself behind bars again.

Rachelle Thomas didn't show up for a Thursday hearing on a contempt-of-court charge, prompting Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Helmick to issue a warrant for her arrest.

Her attorney, Ken Lawson, said he suspects the 31-year-old Forest Park woman is in Las Vegas, where she attends school.

"She was supposed to be here at 10 a.m.," Helmick said.

Thomas' case dates to May 2003 when she was among a group of prospective jurors gathered to hear a civil case in Helmick's courtroom.

Helmick excused Thomas after she said she had to take her son to the doctor. Helmick knew Thomas had written on a jury questionnaire that she had no children but, not wanting to taint other jurors in the room, he excused her.

Later that day, he put a warrant out for her arrest and jailed Thomas for nine days on a contempt-of-court charge.

Before finishing her sentence, Thomas was released on bond pending an appeal to the First District Court of Appeals.

That court overturned the sentence, saying Helmick violated her civil rights when he jailed her without first giving her a hearing.

Thomas "may well deserve punishment, but she must have due process of law first," Appeals Judge Mark Painter wrote.

The Appeals Court also said a contempt charge couldn't be brought unless she had interfered with the judicial process. It sent the case back to the trial court.

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




ELECTION 2004
House Speaker Hastert campaigns for Davis
Bunning, Bush leads solidify
Dean uses his energy for Kerry
Bush, Kerry virtually tied in Ohio polling
Campaign cash reports filed
Commission race costliest
Sycamore levy's battle lines clear
Candidate aims win as write-in

TOP STORIES
Lakota vs. Lakota fires up the fans
Defiant Blackwell rips judge
The provisional ballot conflict
K-9s might get their day
Will they be paid before they die?

IN THE TRISTATE
Church still pays for abuse
Former coach gets 3 years for sex with 13-year-old
Deerfield levy would hire 4 deputies
Convicted aide still working for Deters
West Side builder fined $45,000
Good Sam starts tower
Pro-repeal has $556K
Jailed, freed, ex-juror missing
Norwood fight continues
Regents upset over number in remedial college classes
Local news briefs
Neighbors briefs
Public safety briefs

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Downs: No margin of error with your bumper sticker
Good Things Happening

LIVES REMEMBERED
Ronald M. Beach put Clermont Co. on air
Civil rights fighter Ernest Waits dies
Ralph Weiskittel, 80, former Enquirer editor

KENTUCKY STORIES
Teens learn as 'drunk' stumbles
Baptist church marks 80 years
Covington studying Madison
N. Ky. news briefs