Metro Buzz: U.S. Attorney Walt Green, reporting for (jury) duty _lowres

Walt Green, U.S. Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana

Shirking his civic responsibility just isn’t in U.S. Attorney Walt Green’s nature.

Last spring, the U.S. Marine Corps veteran was walking his dogs when he foiled a would-be burglar from breaking into a neighbor’s home by tussling with and then tackling the man in the middle of East Lakeshore Drive.

And this past week, the chief federal prosecutor for the Baton Rouge-based Middle District of Louisiana spent two days at the nearby 19th Judicial District Courthouse as potential juror No. 37 in the capital murder case of Lee Turner Jr.

Turner is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 2011 slaying of two workers inside the CarQuest Auto Parts store on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane. East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty if he is convicted as charged.

Green was eventually excused from the pool of prospective jurors on Wednesday evening but not before undergoing several rounds of questioning by state District Judge Richard Anderson, prosecutor Tracey Barbera and Margaret Lagattuta, Turner’s lead attorney. He also reported to the Baton Rouge state courthouse March 20 to fill out a lengthy jury questionnaire.

Green noted that jurors are routinely called to the federal courthouse where he works, and he felt it was his duty as a citizen to report to the state courthouse when he received a jury summons.

“I’m glad I did it. I got to see what jury pools go through,” he said, adding that he got the opportunity to meet many nice people in the pool of potential jurors and at the courthouse.

Once selected, the jury in Turner’s case will be put up in a hotel for the duration of the trial. Green said he had made arrangements at his office just in case he was selected.

“I was absolutely going to do it,” he stressed.

Tangipahoa jury duty shirkers punished

Failure to report for jury duty recently landed a handful of Tangipahoa Parish residents in hot water with a judge.

Chief Judge Bob Morrison, of the 21st Judicial District, ordered 14 people who dodged service for a February jury pool to appear in court April 9 and explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt.

All apologized profusely, according to the judge, with most saying they merely forgot about the date they were to appear. A few who were not properly served were spared from punishment, but the rest were found in contempt.

Morrison stayed their jail time but ordered them to perform four hours of community service, sign up for another jury pool within the next six months and pay the parish $40 for the cost of their jury duty subpoenas.

Morrison has said he’s not looking to hurt anybody, but dwindling jury pools in Livingston and Tangipahoa have left judges with little choice but to punish those who shirk their responsibilities.

He has encouraged anyone with legitimate reasons for not serving to contact court officials ahead of time to request an exemption or postponement.

New Livingston website offers information trove

Four years in the making, the Livingston Parish geographic information system launched Wednesday, allowing users to find an array of public information from their computers.

Curious neighbors can find out what their friends’ property is worth and where local leaders own land. The website also can show users various political boundaries and indicate which fire, utility and school districts are responsible for any plot in the parish.

The million-dollar website went online to the public on Wednesday, and Tax Assessor Jeff Taylor, whose office administrates the site, said it would be updated weekly as property records change. The map uses aerial photographs from 2010, but Taylor said new photos were taken recently, and he expects them to be available around August.

The assessor hopes to offer training sessions in the coming months to residents interested in learning more about the system’s features. Future announcements about training will be available at livingston, which also has a link to the map.

Library Board member notes meeting site irony

At his final meeting as a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control, outgoing board member Stanford Bardwell took a swipe this week at those who are advocating in favor of lowering the library’s funding.

Some Metro Council members have tossed out the idea that the library could lower its dedicated property tax to make room for a new tax to fund a mental health center without increasing overall tax bills. Library Board members — Bardwell included — rejected the idea and instead opted to ask the Metro Council to restore the original millage approved by voters, which would mean a slightly higher property tax than the one they are collecting.

Bardwell said he noticed that the Baton Rouge Area Foundation will hold a meeting at 1 p.m. April 27 at the Main Library to unveil plans for the proposed mental health center, for which a funding source has not been publicly identified.

“I find it extremely ironic that — not that I’m not saying that BRAF has been opposing any of these tax discussions — but the fact that they recognize the value of this library and this system as a spot to attract people to come to a meeting of this importance,” he said.

Bardwell added that hosting the mental health unveiling meeting at the library validates the library’s place in the community.

Advocate staff writers Joe Gyan, Heidi Kinchen, Steve Hardy and Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.