Today we are utilizing for the first time in our county the "jury wheel" grand jury selection method. We sent out 125 summons per the statute. 16 showed. Of that 16, six were either disqualified or claimed exemptions. Of the remaining ten, there is only one minority--a Native American. The sheriff has been tasked by the judge with the duty of commandeering additional prospects. We'll see how that goes. I'm curious as to what the experience has been in other counties.
I'm on my 3rd grand jury being called by the same method as a trial jury and have had good results so far. We started calling them this way even before we were mandated. I have to say I was not looking forward to the change and was concerned about getting jurors that were not inclined to do their sworn duty to follow the law. Happily, that has not been the case so far. I'm in a rural jurisdiction and we used to use a grand jury commission, which resulted in the some of the same people serving on the grand jury fairly often (at least within a 5 to 10 year period). Most of those people would have been great "state's jurors" for any kind of jury trial. What I do like about the new selection method is that I get to educate more of the "regular" (i.e. non "state's" juror folks) about the crime in our community and the problems it causes, as opposed to just preaching to the choir.
Interestingly, our grand jury commission did a much better job of selecting persons who represented a racial cross-section of our jurisdiction than the random selection process we are forced to use now.
We recently heard from a rural jurisdiction that went from GJ commissioners to the wheel system. They previously had diverse GJs through the key man system (sometimes even majority-minority), but their first attempt with the wheel resulted in only one eligible minority panelist showing up, and that person did not want to serve.
We're also hearing stories of poor appearance rates similar to LH's ratio. One potential solution may be to increase the statutory maximum of 125 summons and/or allow the sheriff to rustle up more people at a threshold greater than 16.
As for low appearance rates for jury service of all types ... it's hard to make a populist jury system work when the public doesn't want to participate!
We converted several years ago. I don't think it changed minority representation at all. We have always had good minority representation. We are a rural community. It did make us more conscious of the grand jury make up. We have had many cases of close relatives of defendants on the grand jury. In one case an undercover officer actually knew one of the grand jurors from being present near the time of a drug delivery.
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