POSTED ON: THE POST AND EMAIL.
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 21, 2011) — On December 20, 2011, The Post & Email reported an eyewitness account of alleged jury-rigging performed by a Monroe County, TN judge while court employees looked on. The judge reportedly chose the people she wanted, allegedly collecting much personal data about those individuals who would serve on the 2012 grand juries and trial juries.
But why were they “chosen?” Why weren’t the names put into a box and pulled out blindly, as they do in other counties in the state? Why are the names and other personal information known to the judge?
The state laws of Tennessee are contained in the “Tennessee Code Annotated.” Laws regarding jury selection begin in Section 22, which is then subdivided. Section 22-2-301 states:
22-2-301. Automated selection of names for jury list.
(a) The jury coordinator in each county shall select names of prospective jurors to serve in the courts of that county by random automated means, without opportunity for the intervention of any human agency to select a particular name and in a manner that causes no prejudice to any person. The names, which shall constitute the jury list, shall be compiled from licensed driver records or lists, tax records or other available and reliable sources that are so tabulated and arranged that names can be selected by automated means. The jury coordinator may utilize a single source or any combination of sources. The jury coordinator is prohibited from using the permanent voter registration records as a source to compile the jury list.
(b) The jury coordinator shall repeat this procedure as often as reasonably necessary, but in no event may a list be retained for more than two (2) years. Prior to repeating this procedure and compiling a new jury list, no person may add to or take from the existing list, except as provided in this part.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of title 2, chapter 2, part 1 to the contrary, any voter registration form created on or after January 1, 2009, by the state coordinator of elections shall clearly state on the registration form the following: “Names of persons selected for jury service in state court are not chosen from permanent voter registration records.”
Even if, in this electronic age, a county cannot utilize “automated means” as set forth above, the Tennessee legislature allows for an alternate method which stipulates that only the names of prospective jurors are recorded and kept in a box “securely locked and under seal.”
Following the computerized selection of potential jurors, the law stipulates that final selection of jurors will still be made “by automated means” in Section 22-2-304:
22-2-304. Automated selection of names for jury pool.
(a) In any county in this state where the names of prospective jurors are obtained by automated means pursuant to § 22-2-301, the selection of names of prospective jurors to be summoned shall likewise be made by automated means in such a manner as to assure proportionate distribution of names selected without opportunity for the intervention of any human agency to select a particular name and in a manner that causes no prejudice to any person. It is the duty of the presiding judge of the judicial district to notify the jury coordinator of the number of names to be selected from the jury list, and these names shall constitute the jury pool.
(b) When the required number of names have been selected for the jury pool, the jury coordinator shall place a list of those names in an envelope, and with the list shall be enclosed a report prepared and signed by the jury coordinator. A copy of the list and report shall be retained by the jury coordinator for use under the provisions of this chapter, and the report shall provide substantially as follows:
The link directly above displays the form mandated by state law to be used when the jurors have been selected and that the names be “enclosed.” Therefore, the judge does not have access to the names of the jurors. The form also states that the names have been drawn “according to law.”
There is also an alternate means of completing the final selection of jury names provided by law.
But Monroe County appears to not select the names according to the law.
If jurors are selected by “random automated means, without opportunity for the intervention of any human agency to select a particular name and in a manner that causes no prejudice to any person,” then how do the same jurors allegedly end up on grand juries and trial juries in Monroe County?
Why should the defendant have to ask if any of the jurors had served before within the 24-month period prohibited by the state law? Other Tennessee county court clerks have stated that if the computer is suspected of having made a mistake and chosen someone who had served too recently to be recalled to service, they compare the person’s information with their records and disqualify the individual if, in fact, he or she had served within the last 24 months.
So there is a way to check.
Monroe County collects more than enough information to determine whether or not the same person has been called within the prior 24-month period. That could have been done with Angela Davis. While Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood stated that there was no “proof” that the same “Angela Davis” had served prior to charges having been issued against Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III in 2010 by a grand jury with a foreperson by that name, there should have been, based on the following evidence.
The Post & Email has received two packets of information, one of which contained juror instructions on Clerk Martha M. Cook’s personalized stationery:
Page 1 begins:
You have just been impaneled to serve on the Grand Jury for the Criminal Court of Monroe County. Your term of service will be for the months of January thru December 2012.
It then goes on to say that jurors “will receive a letter” to advise them as to when to first report for service as well as providing phone numbers for anyone with questions.
Page 2 defines a grand jury and states that a jury trial is a “constitutional right.”
Detail of upper part of page 2 of Monroe County Grand Jury instructions stating, "The Grand Jury is an important part of the Criminal Court process that follows our constitutional right to a trial by a jury of our peers."
The second heading on page 2 is “WHAT DOES THE GRAND JURY DO?”
and the explanation reads:
The grand Jury has the following duties under the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedures and in conjunction with the oath of office:
1. Inquire into, consider, and act upon all criminal cases submitted by the district attorney general;
2. Inquire into any report of a criminal offense brought to its attention by a member of the grand jury;
3. Inquire into the condition and management of the jail and other County buildings;
4. Inquire into the condition and management of the County Treasury;
5. Inquire into the correctness and sufficiency of the bonds of County officers;
6. Inquire into any abuse of office by State or local officers; and
7. Report the results of its actions to the Court.
Has any Monroe County grand jury upheld its responsibilities that we know of? When was the last time any member inspected, or asked to inspect, the Monroe County jail?
Has any “grand jury” member reported “abuse” on the part of court personnel or judges?
Page 3 makes reference to TCA 22-1-105, which deals with disqualification of a juror "by interest or relationship"
Page 4, which explains how the grand jury process is supposed to work from the "crime committed" to the case being either dismissed or tried in court
Page 6 and final of Jury Instructions identifying start dates for the two grand jury panels for 2012
Included in the package were copies of a document entitled:
MONROE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
CERTIFICATE FO [SIC] ATTENDANCE FOR JURY DUTY