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The jury pool selection problem that has plagued Fulton and other Georgia counties appears slated for quick legislative repair. Georgia Gov. Roy E. Barnes included the jury issue on the agenda when he called a special session of the General Assembly, which convened at noon on Wednesday. The Legislature also will address issues including congressional redistricting and video poker. The jury legislation, introduced by state Sen. Carol Jackson, D-Cleveland, is designed to ensure that jury commissioners can collect adequate demographic data to assemble jury pools that reflect the age, gender and racial makeup of their counties or judicial districts. The problem the legislation aims to fix stems from a law, which went into effect on July 1, 2000, requiring jury commissioners to use Department of Motor Vehicle Safety data from drivers’ licenses and personal identification cards to build a list of those eligible to serve as jurors. The law doesn’t prohibit use of other sources, such as voter registration rolls, in building the list. But, according to Jackson, it also doesn’t require or authorize the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety to release some demographic information necessary to assemble jury pools that reflect the makeup of the community. Here are a few examples of how that has played out around the state: � Fulton County, which has exhausted its jury pool, has had to recycle names on its existing list, recalling residents who were called just months ago. � Douglas and other counties, according to Multicounty Public Defender B. Michael Mears, have postponed death penalty trials, fearing the jury could be challenged either because it’s not representative or because the existing law governing jury pool selection wasn’t followed correctly. � Gwinnett and Cobb counties have geared up to send out questionnaires to potential jurors — an expensive and time-consuming process — asking them to fill gaps in demographic data. “There’s a problem. Whether or not it’s a disaster, I don’t know,” says state Rep. Jim Martin, D-Atlanta, who worked with Jackson on the bill. DATA WITHHELD Problems with the existing law arose because the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety “took the position that they were not allowed to provide by law some of the information that was required — date of birth, sex … racial data,” says Martin. Lack of information caused duplication and triplication in jury lists, according to Holly Sparrow, assistant director for research at the Administrative Office of the Courts. Sparrow, who handles jury management issues and updates a book about jury commissioners’ duties for the entire state, provides an example of how this happens. When clerks didn’t get date-of-birth information, she says, they couldn’t tell if Jane E. Smith and Jane Smith were the same person. Jackson says the bill, which had not been numbered as of press time, should solve these problems. It would amend O.C.G.A. Section 40-5-2 to require drivers’ license and personal identification lists given to jury commissioners to identify each person by name, address, date of birth, gender, citizenship, license or personal identification card number and any racial or ethnic data collected for the purpose of voter registration. GRACE PERIOD PROPOSED It also would amend O.C.G.A. Section 15-12-40 to provide that until July 1, 2002, jury commissioners may — but are not required to — use the motor vehicle drivers’ license and personal identification card lists to compose their jury lists. From July 1, 2002, onward, the jury commissioners again would be required to use drivers’ license and personal identification card data in building their lists, in addition to lists of registered voters and other lists of county residents the board of jury commissioners deems appropriate. The interval should give the various entities involved time to coordinate their data collection and transfer methods, says Jackson. The proposed legislation also provides that jury lists compiled prior to the effective date of the amendment will not be rendered invalid by the use or failure to use sources — such as drivers’ license records — specified in the amendment. Martin says he hopes the Georgia Legislature will set a record for quick passage with this bill. It could pass in as little as five days, he says.

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