Juries in Harris County do not reflect the demographics that makeup its population. Most people think that the diverse population is key to the jury makeup but the truth is that judges and lawyers play the largest role in deciding who stays and goes from juries. Winning cases is what motivates lawyers to remove or keep members on the jury.
At the same time, juries do not reflect the current diversity of the county population because demographics of individuals who are eligible for jury service are different than those of the county population. Studies have shown that non-Hispanic whites, middle aged people, and individuals with college educations are more likely to appear for jury service.
The office of Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel performed an analysis based on statistics and demographics with a desire to improve the turnout for jury service. It was determined that of the 205,339 people who received jury service notification in the first 6 months of 2012, a total of 39% did not appear at court and did not contact the district clerk’s office to reschedule. In addition, 37% appeared for service and 24% were disqualified or were granted exemptions.
Several factors play a role in jury service turnout. A potential juror must be an American citizen, fairly proficient in English, has not convicted a felony or misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude”, and must be at least 18 years old. When these factors are considered, the population of those attending jury service is less diversified.