The way jury pools are selected has changed over the past few years, and Douglas County Clerk of Courts Tammy Howard wants citizens to be aware of how that summons for jury duty in the mail got there.
Howard said the jury selection process begins when a citizen who is at least 18 years old attains a Georgia Driver's License, a Georgia ID, or registers to vote.
According to information attained from the Douglas County court system, there are seven qualifications for being a juror:
• Are a U.S citizen.
• Are at least 18 years old.
• Can understand English enough to understand and discuss the case.
• Are you a resident of the county that sent you the jury summons?
• Have not served on a jury in the last 12 months.
• Are not currently on a grand jury.
• Have your civil rights restored if you are a convicted felon?
According to Howard, if you qualify from the above list and have one of the aforementioned documents, your name goes into the master list in the computer for selection. The master list is updated in July.
According to Howard, prior to 2012, the process of jury selection was done by six commissioners, who were citizens appointed by a judge.
Since 2012, the selection process has been changed in order to be more inclusive.
According to Howard, the process now begins with the master list that is in the computer. If an individual has a Georgia driver's license, Georgia ID or has registered to vote, their name goes into the computer system.
Howard said "small differences between forms can cause duplicates to appear. If your driver's license says Johnny K. Smith but your voter registration says Johnny King Smith, it can create a duplicate in the system." However, if a duplicate arises and two notices are sent, simply contact the clerks office and the issue can be rectified, Howard said.
When it comes to removing or exempting individuals from the master list, a few steps need to be taken. Individuals can file an affidavit for exemption
see jury/page A5
if they fall into the following categories.
• Persons who have a mental and/or physical disability.
• Persons who are 70 years of age or older.
• Persons who are a convicted felon and who have not had their civil rights restored.
• Persons who are a full-time student at a college, university, vocation school, or other postsecondary school.
• Primary caregiver of a child 6 years of age or younger.
• Primary teacher in a home study program.
• Any service member on order military duty.
• Non-citizen of the United States.
• Non-resident of Douglas County.
According to Howard, if an individual fits into any of the categories listed above they must fill out an affidavit stating that they qualify for exemption, and then their name will be moved to the inactive list. Deferrals to a later date as well as hardship excuses can be granted by a judge. In the case of deceased individuals, a list is sent from the probate court with the list of names every month and then those names are marked inactive.
Howard said that actual selection only begins when a judge asks for a specific number of jurors. Once the judge gives the number of jurors needed, that number is then placed into the computer and the computer randomly selects that number of individuals from the list and prints jury summons. According to Howard, the only input from the clerk's office on this process is to place the summons into the envelope stuffer, so they can be stuffed and then mailed.
Howard said that you would only be selected for jury duty once per year. She said "for example if you serve on a jury in September, the next available time you can be selected would be September of the following year. It is a year from the date of your summons, not simply a calendar year."
In the case of individuals who are Srs., Jrs., etc., clarification can be made by the clerks office based on the date of birth listed for the summons.
Howard said that all citizens should be aware of the jury scam that has come to light recently. She said that anyone who receives a call from the sheriff's office asking them to pay a fine via PayPal should decline and hang up the phone. According to Howard the only person who can fine a juror is the judge, and if a juror is ever fined they would have to come to the courthouse to pay the fine at the clerk's office.
Howard also wanted to remind everyone that jurors are a vital part of the justice system.