Originally created 05/07/02

Summit to focus on jury system



For the first time in Georgia, during this week's Georgia Jury Summit in Augusta, changes in the state's jury system will be explored.

Beginning Thursday morning, panels composed of some of the state's most knowledgeable legal minds and judicial scholars and experts from other states will discuss such issues as how jurors are selected; how to improve the process for residents drafted as jurors; new practices and procedures; and how jurors make decisions.

The Georgia Jury Summit will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday with an opening speech by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.

Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet will outline the purpose of the three-day program: to improve both the perception and the reality of jury service in Georgia's civil and criminal court system.

Judge Overstreet, who is the president of the state's Council of Superior Court Judges, attended one of the first such programs, held last year in New York.

The lineup of panel participates draws on attorneys, judges and jurors in Georgia. Out-of-state speakers include such experts as Wisconsin Judge Thomas H. Barland, who was chairman of the American Bar Association's Judicial Division's Jury Management committee; and B. Michael Dann, an Arizona trial judge who spearheaded innovations and reforms in his state's courts and received the 1997 Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence at the U.S. Supreme Court for his national work in jury trial reform.

The panel also includes two judges who presided over high-profile trials - Massachusetts Associate Justice Hiller B. Zobel, who presided over the case of au pair Louise Woodward, accused of killing the baby she was hired to care for; and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Costas M. Pleicones, who presided over the trial of Susan Smith, convicted of murdering her two small sons by strapping them in their car seats in the back of a car and guiding it into a Union County Lake.

The summit, sponsored the Georgia Institute of Continuing Judicial Education and the National Center for State Courts' Center for Jury Studies, will conclude Saturday afternoon as participants discuss what they have learned and what they might be willing to do differently in the future.

The summit is open to the public. It will be held at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

SCHEDULE

The Georgia Jury Summit will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta with Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher giving the welcoming remarks. The conference, which is open to the public, will continue through Saturday.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.