Richmond County expands jury pool

Richmond County residents will have a greater chance of being chosen for jury duty beginning July 1.

The changes in the county’s jury pool start this month when Jury Clerk Joan Shackelford receives a list of all potential Richmond County voters from the Georgia Department of Driver Services and the Board of Elections. That list will be culled over two months to exclude felons and anyone who is dead or has moved out of the county.

The result will be a jury pool of about 100,000 – a vast increase from the roughly 20,000 potential jurors used under the old system.

“More than likely those who never had the opportunity to do their civic duty will be called,” Shackelford said.

The changes are the result of a bill signed into law last year that creates a statewide database of qualified voters in Georgia. Under the old system, Shackelford maintained a jury “box” of qualified jurists that was balanced according to the latest U.S. Census data. For instance, the pool was about 54 percent black and 40 percent white and almost evenly split between male and female. While the list was frequently groomed for ineligible jurists, a large portion of the population was excluded.

With the expanded jury pool, “it’ll be just about everybody,” Shackelford said.

Some details must be finalized.

It’s likely that those summoned would not be called again for two years. Richmond County also pays its jurors the maximum $25 a day, and that’s likely to continue, too.

Shackelford is expecting some snags during the transition to the new system but is prepared to meet the challenge.

“We’ll just work through things as they happen,” she said.

 

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