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Monday, May 2, 2016

New system intended to include more people as potential jurors

Friday, October 28, 2005

Do you refuse to register to vote to lessen the chance of being called for jury duty? If you have a license, state ID card or pay taxes, you could be called for jury duty sooner than you think.

A new project called the Jury Pool Project compiled by the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee will create a new database for Indiana that pulls possible juror names from lists of drivers license holders, state identification holders and taxpayers. The new system will not pull from registered voter lists.

Clay County Clerk Mary Brown said that counties in Indiana have the choice to use lists compiled by the JTAC. According to Brown, Clay County will be using the compilation for jury pool selection in 2006, making a larger number of residents from the county eligible for jury selection.

Currently, courts in Indiana assign a jury administrator to compile juries for the year by selecting names from the voter registration lists for that county. The lists are supplemented by utility customers, property taxpayers, income tax filers, vehicle registrations, city directories and driver's license holders. People selected from the above categories make up the court's jury pool. Jurors needed for a case are randomly drawn out of the pool and face an approval process.

Indiana courts are having a tough time selecting members of the population to petition for jury duty. One major problem is Hoosiers have not updated their addresses with their local election office. Another problem is that according to law, the jury administrator's voter lists cannot purge people from the list who have moved or passed away without an updated address or death certificate.

Lake Superior Court Judge John J. Pera, chairman of the Jury Pool Project that was initiated by the Indiana Supreme Court, said, "You don't want to systematically exclude anyone -- it's not what we stand for or what the public expects. We don't want to do it inadvertently, either."

The project will lead to a wider variety of people called for jury duty, thus protecting citizen's rights to a trial by jury because jury members are selected from the largest pool possible.

After the project is complete and in use, more Hoosiers will be hearing this phrase, "Do each of you swear or affirm that you will well and truly try the matter in issue between the parties, and give a true verdict according to the law and evidence?"

Who can be a juror?

Some restrictions apply to being selected for jury duty. An individual must state under oath that they are:

- a citizen of the United States;

- at least 18 years of age;

- a resident of the summoning county;

- able to read, speak and understand the English language;

- not suffering from physical or mental disability that prevents him or her from rendering satisfactory jury service;

- not under a guardianship appointment because of mental incapacity;

- not a person who has had his or her right to vote revoked by reason of a felony conviction and whose rights to vote have not been restored;

- and not a law enforcement officer, if the trial is a criminal case.

The number of jurors needed for a case is determined by the following:

- In criminal cases, if the defendant is charged with murder, a Class A, B, or C felony, including any enhancement(s), the jury will consist of 12 persons, unless the parties and the court agree to a lesser number of jurors.

- If the defendant is charged with any other crime, the jury will consist of six persons.

- In civil cases, the jury shall consist of six persons, unless the parties agree to a lesser number.

Once jurors serve on a case or are not approved for a case, their names are put at the bottom of the list and cannot be used until all others on the list have been summoned for duty, leading to the demand for more names on the list.

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