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Austin: Future Travis DA likes new grand jury selection process

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  • Jon Roland
    http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/courts/index.html Future Travis DA likes new grand jury selection process
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2008
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      http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/courts/index.html

      Future Travis DA likes new grand jury selection process

      By Steven Kreytak | Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 05:39 PM

      Travis County First Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg today spoke favorably of the shift in picking grand jurors championed by state District Judge Charlie Baird and which one of Baird’s fellow judges plans to emulate.

      “I am in support of it,” Lehmberg said of Baird’s decision to pick his latest grand jury from a random selection of county residents, the same way that jurors for trials are chosen. Baird believes that the system will lead to a broader cross-section of Travis County residents serving on the sometimes critical panels. Read a story on the topic that ran on the front page of today’s Statesman here.

      “I would want to keep an eye on it to make sure it is providing the ethnic and gender and primarily the racial diversity we are looking for,” Lehmberg said.

      Travis County district judges have long used the so-called “key-man” system to choose grand jurors, who meet in secret, have broad investigative powers and are charged with indicting defendants if they find probable cause that a crime was committed.

      Under that system, judges pick four or five county residents as commissioners who then choose grand jurors from lists of people they know.

      Lehmberg said the judges in Travis County has traditionally worked hard to choose a diverse group of commissioners, which has led to diverse grand juries.

      Lehmberg said she is satisfied that the grand jury that Baird seated Tuesday is sufficiently diverse. District Attorney’s Office Grand Jury Division Chief Claire Dawson-Brown said that of the 12 grand jurors chosen for Baird’s grand jury, seven are women, one is African American and three have Hispanic last names.

      Grand jurors must set aside four hours a day, two or three days a week, for three months.

      Dawson-Brown said that she was encouraged that Baird was able to secure 14 people (including two alternates) willing to make the time commitment. He summoned a pool of 30 potential jurors to court and said he released from the pool anyone who did not want to serve.

      “It once again shows what good citizens we have,” Dawson-Brown said. “It’s not like sitting for three days on a trial. This is a major time commitment.”


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