More Diverse Juries

 Posted on May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

During Blomberg's jury selection, 64 people were summoned and were divided into four groups of 16 each. The jury panel size varies on the amount of people a judge requests. Typically, for a misdemeanor trial such as Blomberg's, approximately 100 people are summoned to jury service, Daniel said. After potential jurors are summoned, the selection process is up to the district attorney and the judge presiding over the case.Individuals were called in to the judge's chambers for questioning by the judge and district attorney, in a process called voir dire. Defense attorney Jolanda Jones said the use of voir dire was not necessary since the separation from other potential jurors intimidated minorities and poor people."I don't think it should have been granted in the Blomberg case," she said.Typically, voir dire is used for capital murder cases, but it most likely was used in the Blomberg trial because of the notoriety of the case, Daniel said.

Houston Chronicle.

How many things are wrong with this excerpt?

Typically, for a misdemeanor trial, about one hundred people are summoned to jury service. But those are the people who receive notice in the mail. Of those, maybe thirty turn up at the jury assembly room on the appointed day; twenty to thirty-however many the judge has requested-make the trek to the courtroom for a typical misdemeanor case. The number "summoned" is not the same as the number requested by the judge.

Blomberg's case was not a typical misdemeanor, so instead of twenty to thirty jurors, the judge requested a panel of sixty-four.

Jolanda Jones most certainly did not say that the use of voir dire was not necessary. You can't pick a jury without voir dire. What she might have said was that individual voir dire was not necessary.

(Jones may be wrong about that. Individual voir dire may be necessary in high-publicity cases like this one where it's impossible to talk with one potential juror about her exposure to the publicity without effectively exposing the next potential juror to that publicity. News reports often contain information that would not be admissible at trial or that is flat-out wrong. I know: shocking.)

Chris Daniel may or may not have said that voir dire most likely was used in the Blomberg trial because of the notoriety of the case. From the context, I doubt it. Daniel probably knows the difference between "voir dire" and "individual voir dire." many things are wrong with this excerpt? Only one: it was written by someone without a functional understanding of the criminal-justice center.

Both Green and Jackson Lee said transparency in the jury selection process is needed to prevent one-race juries. Jackson Lee said lack of diversity was alarming and called for an increase in the number of residents summoned for jury service to 300 from 75.

If five percent of the jury panel is black when you summon seventy-five people, five percent of the jury panel will be black when you summon three hundred people. Jury panels are randomly stacked, so the black five percent won't be right up front where they're more likely to make it on the jury. What good would increasing the number of residents summoned do? Not a damn thing.

Jury lists comprise those who are registered to vote, who are licensed to drive, or who have a Texas ID card. There's no good way to broaden the pool of potential voters.

Do you really want to get more diverse juries? Don't waste your time holding meaningless press conferences looking for futile government solutions to problems of apathy. Don't write newspaper articles that leave their readers more ignorant than when they started. Instead, go out in the neighborhood and encourage people to serve.

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