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Broadening Juror Participation

by TChris

Until recently, potential jurors were summoned to court in Indiana by selecting names from voter registration lists. That selection method failed to provide a representative cross-section of the community, given the reality that so many people don't bother to vote. Among other problems, the selection process contributed to a lack of racial diversity on juries. And jury pools chosen from voter registration lists tend to skew toward older, retired jurors who have time to go to the polls.

Last month, taxpayer records, drivers' license, and state ID records were added to the lists from which potential jurors are chosen in Indiana.

Allen Superior Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger, a member of the state’s jury commission, said the combined lists should cover more than 90 percent of jury-eligible Hoosiers.

Will this new selection method make juries more representative of the community? It will be hard for the judiciary to know, because the state doesn't keep demographic records of juror participation. The linked editorial argues that Indiana needs to take that step:

The U.S. Constitution guarantees a defendant shall be judged by a jury of peers. This does not mean that the jury will be made up of a certain percentage of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women or people under 30. But the pool from which a 12-person panel is selected should have people from all sections of a community. Historically, this hasn’t always been the case, and there is documented evidence of injustice because jury pools were limited because of outright malfeasance. While the system may have changed, the past is hard to erase.

Lawyers, judges and lawmakers should ask themselves whether providing demographic information about jury pools will engender confidence among minorities. If they’re being honest, then the answer would undoubtedly be yes.

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  • Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    Personally I'd rather not be judged by a cross section of any population in any state. I'd like my jury to be intelligent, well read, up to speed on current events, empathetic to the plight of others and devoid of a broad range of sick, slovenly personality traits present in a majority of Americans. Actually, any involvement with a group of people broadly representative of Americans in any social, professional or other gathering is best avoided.

    Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#2)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    The U.S. Constitution guarantees a defendant shall be judged by a jury of peers.
    No, it doesn't. Amendment 6:
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed...
    I'm all for diversity, or just spreading the annoyance around, but a bunch of impartial old white folks seems to meet the Constitutional requirement.

    Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    Roy, You're wrong. For one, you're forgetting about the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. After all, it isn't just that the defendant who has rightsl; minorities have the constitutional right to be jurors.

    Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    Interesting. Perhaps some will go ahead and register to vote now that not doing so is no longer a dodge to jury duty.

    Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#5)
    by pigwiggle on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    Steve; hear hear.

    Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    "And jury pools chosen from voter registration lists tend to skew toward older, retired jurors who have time to go to the polls." Not for nothing but what?! "Time to go to the polls"? Did you mean to write "time to be jurors?" Ah, fugetabout it, I don't have the energy...

    Re: Broadening Juror Participation (none / 0) (#7)
    by aw on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    I wouldn't mind serving at all, in fact, I wish I could. I'm hearing impaired, and I wouldn't wish me on any jury for obvious reasons. Yet, year after year, I receive my jury notices and year after year, I tell them why I can't serve. I don't understand why I can't be permanently removed, barring a miracle (like perhaps stem cells that will regenerate hearing nerves).