Nearly every parent has struggled to find a babysitter at one time or another, but a Michigan stay-at-home mom was nearly jailed when she couldn't find someone to watch her kids. Carmela Khury was held in contempt of court for bringing her children, ages 3 and 8 months, with her to the courthouse when she couldn't find childcare.
On the fourth day of jury selection in a murder trial, Khury began calling the court clerk at 8 a.m. to explain she couldn't make it to jury duty because she had no one to watch her kids. Her mother was undergoing oral surgery, her husband was at work and the nanny wasn't available.
"[The clerk] kept saying you need to be here. I was crying, and I said, 'Well, what did you expect me to do? I can't leave my kids at home. They're my priority.' He said the judge is ordering you to be here at 9 a.m.," Khury said.
So with her children in tow, she headed to court, arriving by 9:25 a.m. A clerk watched her kids while she was in the courtroom, where she received a shocking sentence from Judge Leo Bowman. He found Khury in contempt for being late, excused her from the jury, and ordered her to spend 24 hours in jail and sit as spectator for the duration of the trial.
"I felt like I was the bad guy, and I'm not a bad guy," she said.
The next day Khury arrived at court by 8:30 a.m. after leaving her children with her recovering mother. But the judge had told the other jurors to arrive at 10:30 a.m. Khury hadn't been alerted to the time change.
Judge Bowman has reportedly detained prospective jurors before this incident. It happened to one woman who said she couldn't serve on a sexual assault case because she had been sexually assaulted in the past. Another juror told the judge she couldn't serve because her husband was overseas and didn't have childcare.
Judge Relented Under Pressure
Khury never served any jail time, but it was only after the state judicial officials faxed a letter to Bowman making it clear he didn't have authority to hold jurors. The State Court Administration Office ordered Bowman to stop doing so or he would face punishment himself.
Bowman also released Khury from the trial, but before she left court, the judge lectured her and asked if she had learned her lesson.
Khury is grateful to court administrators for their intervention in the matter.
"If they hadn't stood up for me, what would have happened to me?" she said.