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By mid-June Fulton County, Ga., had called every name on its list of potential jurors, but state law may prevent court officials from assembling a new roll until late fall. Under a 1999 Georgia law, “(i)n carrying out revisions of the trial jury list and grand jury list on or after July 1, 2000, the board of jury commissioners shall make use,” of the list of all county residents who hold a Georgia driver’s license or personal identification card. (O.C.G.A. Sec. 15-12-40). Previously, many counties, including Fulton, relied exclusively on lists culled from voter registration rolls. But Deputy Court Administrator Stephen M. Nevels says the county is in a difficult spot. The “jury wheel” — the list of names from which his office selects those whom the court will summon for potential jury service — ran out of names in June. However, due to technical miscues and other glitches, the court administrator’s office will not receive the required lists from the Department of Public Safety until late fall at the earliest. Other counties face the same problem, even if they have not exhausted their potential juror lists, Nevels says. The cost of complying with the statute, Nevels estimates, could reach $5 million statewide. To keep Fulton courts functioning, Nevels says, the administrator’s office continues using the old list of 180,000 potential jurors. The stopgap measure should continue, Nevels says, until the office can comply with the year-old statute. Nevels says he doesn’t know the last time this was done in Fulton. “It’s not common at all,” he says. We really didn’t want to have to do it.” However, Nevels says, the move is allowed under the statute. That law only precludes his office from assembling a new list, he says, not continuing to use a list the courts already have certified as fair. “We’re just continuing to use the same wheel we already have,” he says. “It’s only a year old. I can’t make a new wheel without using those [Department of Public Safety] lists.” Fulton jury clerk Jennifer H. Lawson explains that when the administrator’s office “resets the wheel,” the office begins selecting names from the same list. This means those who served on juries in the past 12 months could be summoned again. “We’re going to get some people who’ve been called,” Nevels says. “It’s happened already. A lot of them are saying ‘Who’s responsible for this?’ We tell them to contact their representative.” AL-AMIN CASE The statute and the Fulton courts’ effort to comply with it may be used in Atlanta lawyer John R. “Jack” Martin’s defense of Jamil A. Al-Amin in a capital murder case. Al-Amin, formerly the Black Panther H. Rap Brown, is accused of shooting two Fulton sheriff’s deputies in front of his West End store March 16, 2000. Deputy Richard L. Kinchen died of his wounds, but his partner, Aldranon English, survived. Martin calls the move to reset the jury list “something we’re going to look at very carefully.” “From the beginning we’ve assumed that we’re going to challenge everything,” he says. During a motions hearing in the Al-Amin case in Fulton Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis’ courtroom June 28, Martin said he would insist that the court follow the requirements of the jury list statute. For purposes of the unified appeal in death penalty cases, judges must certify the list of potential jurors as representative of the community. That, Nevels says, is part of the problem his office faces. The information is trickling in from the Department of Public Safety in CD-ROM format, he says, but the lists do not include such data as race, sex and age. Without those categories, the court cannot determine whether the roll accurately reflects the community from which it is drawn. In an attempt to collect the missing data, the administrator’s office is mailing questionnaires to those on the Department of Public Safety list. In anticipation of a very low return rate, Nevels says, “We’ll be sending out thousands of questionnaires.” When the responses are received, clerks must enter that information into the court’s database manually, Nevels says. That could take until November, Nevels says, assuming that the process goes smoothly. Another problem the administrator’s office has discovered is that the list from the Department of Public Safety includes about 870,000 names — approximately 54,000 more than the county’s entire population of 816,006 according to the 2000 Census. “I think we’re certainly going to find some deceased people on those lists,” he says. “We’re going to have to go through them and take them off.” Nevels says assembling a list that complies with the law has proven more difficult than lawmakers expected. “I don’t think a lot of people knew that this was going to happen,” he says. State Sen. Jack Hill, D-Reidsville, says he didn’t foresee a problem when he sponsored the bill in 1999. The intent was to enable the courts in some counties to acquire lists of potential voters from the Georgia Department of Public Safety, he said. Some counties had been trying, but they weren’t successful, he says. Hill says he originally intended the statute to allow the courts to “consider” those lists, but the language grew stronger as it passed the General Assembly. The final version declared that the courts “shall make use of” those resources when drawing up new jury lists after July 1, 2000. “The language nudged them along a little,” he says. And, Hill says, it enables counties to tap residents who might try to avoid jury duty. “It started out with the idea that some people didn’t … register to vote because they didn’t want to be on the jury list,” he says, adding that his son was among them. REVISIONS CONSIDERED Nevels says that some court officials are considering revising the law to simplify collecting the required information. Changes will be proposed at next year’s legislative session and even may be offered during the upcoming special legislative session, he says. Hill says no one has contacted him about changing the law. Martin says the law is a very good policy, even if its implementation is not especially efficient. “It’s a great idea. Everyone thinks it’s a great idea,” he says. “It makes a much more inclusive list.”

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