The summons may be returnable to, and the case heard and determined at, any term of such court. Such summons shall be made returnable not more than ninety days after its date and shall be served at least ten days before the return day thereof. If the defendant appear, he shall plead to the summons, and his plea shall be "not guilty." Upon this issue, or upon the return of the first or any subsequent summons "executed," if the defendant fail to plead, a jury shall be impaneled to try whether he unlawfully withholds the premises in controversy and to assess the damages, if any, which the plaintiff is entitled to recover for the detention thereof. Such cause shall have precedence for trial over all other civil causes on the docket.