Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Vacationing juror will serve jail time

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Colerain Township woman who failed to return for jury service last week so she could scuba dive in Mexico will serve seven days in jail, a Hamilton County judge ordered Monday.

        Christine Fiorini surrendered to sheriff's deputies Monday morning. She was charged with indirect contempt of court for skipping out on jury deliberations Feb. 19 with 11 other jurors in a complicity to aggravated murder trial.

        Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman chastised Ms. Fiorini Monday for her “immature” action, saying that she not only wasted the time of court personnel, attorneys and the defendant, but also the time of her fellow jurors.

        “You're basically a nice person, good job, mom and responsible citizen -- up to this point,” the judge told the weeping businesswoman. “What were you thinking?”

        The judge said jurors sat around waiting to deliberate while sheriff's deputies searched for Ms. Fiorini.

        The 33-year-old woman eventually was located in Cozumel, Mexico, vacationing with one of her two children.

        Ms. Fiorini's attorney, Tim Hickey, said his client assumed “erroneously” that an alternate juror could take her place in deliberations.

        She tried to shorten her trip so she could return for jury service but was told that she would have to pay $1,200 per ticket to return early.

        Ms. Fiorini initially told the jury commissioner's office that she had a vacation planned and already had the tickets. The office shortened her jury service to two weeks to accommodate her, said Hamilton County Jury Commissioner Fritz Meyer. (Regular jury service lasts three weeks.)

        She was in her second week of service when she failed to return, officials said.

        Judge Ruehlman said sheriff's deputies talked to Ms. Fiorini's family, who claimed they didn't know how to reach her and that she was in Florida on business.

        “We didn't get any cooperation from anyone until her picture was in the paper and we told them it would continue to be in the paper and on television until she turned up,” the judge told Ms. Fiorini.

        Ms. Fiorini told the judge she didn't realize she was in trouble until her sister e-mailed her with the number of a sheriff's deputy. It was then that she called and agreed to turn herself in -- once she got back to Cincinnati.

        Besides jail time, Ms. Fiorini was ordered to pay more than $700 in court costs, fines and overtime pay for sheriff's deputies. She will also serve 40 hours of community service doing janitorial work around the courthouse.

        Ms. Fiorini could have received 30 days in jail, but the judge said she wasted seven days of everyone else's lives, so he would take seven days of her life.

        Also, because her crime was a misdemeanor, Ms. Fiorini will still be eligible for jury service in the future, Mr. Meyer said.

        As for the trial of Dorie Terrell, opposing attorneys agreed to let 11 jurors continue deliberations this week. Ms. Terrell is accused of helping to kill Ibrahima Diallo Sept. 3.


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