Bartow County investigates how non-U.S. citizen got on jury

by: Carl Willis Updated:

Loading

BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - A law meant to discourage discrimination when picking a jury is also causing headaches in a Georgia county.

That's because a woman who is not a United States citizen wound up serving on a grand jury in Bartow County.

The first question asked of jurors is if they are U.S. citizens, but there are no background checks.

"It comes down to jurors telling us the truth," said District Attorney Rosemary Greene.

She serves the Cherokee Judicial Circuit that handles Bartow County and Gordon County.

Greene told Channel 2's Carl Willis that good faith may not always be enough when selecting a jury.

This week, she had to call to reconvene the grand jury and present around 130 cases a second time after a woman who is in the country legally with a green card slipped through the system.

"(She) had a driver's license, had a Social Security card, everything. So it's not an illegal alien," said Greene.

Still, she is not qualified to serve.

Now, the Bartow County Sheriff's Office is trying to determine if the juror in question was intentionally misleading.

"We're going to do an investigation to see if there was any maliciousness or any intent to defraud or anything like that," said Sheriff Clark Millsap.

This wasn't the first time, and it likely won't be the last time an error like this happens, according to Greene.

She said a major factor is the Jury Reform Composition Act of 2011. The act expanded the jury pool to include anyone over 18 registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, rather than relying on voter registration rolls alone.

"We have a different jury pool coming in which may not be as well-informed about the requirements and things of that nature," said Greene.

She said her office is fortunate the Sheriff's Office received information and caught the problem when it did, otherwise, they would have had dozens of improper indictments.

The district attorney said the screening process out of Atlanta needs another look.

"The criminal justice system, in itself, and prosecutors and judges and our clerks are going to have to take action," said Greene.

She said her office will be clearer when giving instructions to potential jurors and will consider putting it in writing.

The sheriff said he hoped to wrap his investigation by Friday.



Channel 2 Action News

Delivered To Your Inbox