GRAND JURY DIVERSITY PROJECT
We need to increase diversity on Harris County Grand Juries by recruiting qualified, willing applicants to be part of the process. We're on a "Race to 1000" where we bring applications and notary services
According to a Washington Post article, grand juries are "Too white, too law-and-order, and too cozy with cops" with more than half of grand jurors being employed by the criminal justice system. CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE A recent Houston Chronicle article points out the fact that Hispanics are so underrepresented in Houston-area criminal grand juries that the legality of indictments could be questioned based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found such disparities can violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
An analysis conducted by the Houston Chronicle found that there are three times more adult Hispanics living in Harris County than the number who serve on grand juries, 36 percent versus 12 percent. The analysis also found that Asians are underrepresented in Harris County to a similar degree as Hispanics.
CLICK HERE to read about the bills Senator John Whitmire and State Rep. Harold Dutton have filed that would increase diversity on grand juries across Texas.
In Castaneda v. Partida, a 1977 case that made it to the high court, Hidalgo County grand juries were found to be 39 percent Mexican-American, though the county population was 79 percent. The Mexican-American defendant’s indictment was thrown out.
What is a Grand Jury?
A grand jury consists of twelve people whose job is to review criminal complaints and decide if there is sufficient evidence to issue an indictment. The standard of proof for an indictment is probable cause.
Who can serve on a Grand Jury?
A person can serve on a grand jury in Harris County if he:
- is a citizen of Harris County, Texas, and qualified to vote in Harris County;
- is of sound mind and good moral character;
- is able to read and write;
- has never have been convicted of any felony;
- is not under indictment or other legal accusation for theft or any felony;
- is not on probation for theft or any felony;
- has not served as a grand juror or grand jury commissioner in the last year;
- is not related to any person selected to serve or serving on the same grand jury;
- is not a complainant in any matter to be heard by the grand jury during the term of court for which he has been selected as a grand juror.
How is a grand jury selected?
The court selects 3 to 5 grand jury commissioners. These commissioners are charged with compiling a list of not less than 15 nor more than 40 persons to be summoned as grand jurors. From this list, the court impanels twelve (12) grand jurors and two (2) alternate grand jurors to serve.
The law requires the commissioners to select grand jurors who “represent a broad cross section of the population of the county, considering the factors of race, sex and age.”
This means that if, even if the court summons you, you may or may not be selected to serve. If you are not selected, this is not a reflection on you, but rather the court’s attempt to comply with the requirements of the law.
Why would I want to serve on a Grand Jury?
Only a small percentage of citizens are privileged to serve on a grand jury. Those who take advantage of this unusual opportunity enjoy having a close up view of the criminal justice system and participating in the process. Serving on a grand jury provides a unique education about our criminal justice system.
Grand jurors meet new and interesting people and often form lasting bonds with fellow grand jurors. We always receive letters from former grand jurors stating what a rewarding experience they had and how much they will miss their fellow grand jurors.
Grand jurors are also offered the opportunity to ride with a patrol officer from the Harris County Sheriff's Department and take a tour of the county morgue.
When and where does the Grand Jury meet?
Ten new grand juries are empanelled for each of the January and July Terms, with five serving at one time in three-month intervals. Each grand jury meets for two scheduled days a week at 1201 Franklin, 3rd Floor, Houston, Texas 77002. The grand jury's workday can last as long as a regular work day, but is often shorter.
Will I be paid for Grand Jury Service?
Grand Jurors are paid $6.00 for the first session and $28.00 for each subsequent session in the grand jury term.
How can I serve on a Grand Jury?
To be considered for the next grand jury, you must fill out the grand juror application, have it notarized, and mail it in to the Administrative Office of the District Courts, 1201 Franklin, 7th Floor, Houston, Texas 77002. If you do not truthfully answer the questions on your application, you could be prosecuted for criminal offenses.
Turning in the application means that you are making a commitment to serve as a grand juror, not merely exploring the possibility. Do not send in the application unless you can commit the time and effort required of a grand juror.