Georgia’s addition of licensed drivers to the list of jury pools has created an unexpected problem. Before, only registered voters could serve. But now convicted felons are showing up for jury duty.
The goal was to increase jury pools across the state. But an unintended consequence was that the lists now include convicted felons, who are ineligible to serve on a jury. Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, says the biggest problem is creating grand juries.
He says district attorneys have had to throw out indictments because convicted felons served on the panel. “A number of DA’s have had to re-present entire days and/or month worth of grand jury work. " he says. "You know sometimes as many as a hundred cases have had to be re-presented to the next grand jury. Because it’s not just convicted felons, we’ve also got to verify that each of the grand jurors are citizens of this country. That’s become a problem too.”
Spahos says district attorneys now have to run electronic background checks. “Either the DA’s offices themselves, or their sheriff’s department or whatever agency that’s got the terminal is actually having to run each of the prospective grand juror’s criminal histories. And verify that.”
Spahos says they are working on finishing an electronic data exchange with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s criminal records. Until that’s done, district attorneys are running criminal background checks on everyone in the jury pool. If the technology fix doesn't work, Spahos says he will ask state legislators to tweak the law.