July 29, 2010

Jano Justice Systems and Jury Selection

I was recently on jury duty and did some informal inquiry and observation about the current ways in which Champaign County (IL) finds jurors. On a Monday morning, about 35 of us showed up at the courthouse in downtown Urbana and had a brief orientation. The staff handed us badges with bar codes and our juror number on them along with a brochure about petit juries. The brochure said that my name “was drawn by lot from the combined lists of registered voters, licensed drivers, holders of Illinois Identification Cards, and Illinois Disabled Person Identification Cards who reside in this county.” The county uses Jano Justice Systems software to generate the jury pool. Apparently since 2003, the county has been using Jano in tandem with New World Systems to integrate the record-keeping and data management of the courts, according to this one article I found. “Together, Jano and New World will integrate multiple agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, Correctional Facility, State’s Attorney, Juvenile Detention Center, Circuit Court and Clerk, Adult Probation, Juvenile Probation and Public Defender so each entity has access to critical information stored on a single system.” New World indeed. A detention center or a detention centre is any location used for detention. Specifically, it can mean:

….. Click the link for more informa

Of the 35 people I saw that first morning in the jury assembly room, I saw two African Americans and one woman who was reading a Spanish language newspaper. Otherwise, everyone looked white. That’s about 8 percent non-white. There is a Champaign County Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Jury Selection that formed in 2008 to look at the racial disparities among jurors.  According to Brian Dolinar, writing on the Independent Media Center’s website: “For several years the Courtwatch study conducted by the League of Women Voters has shown that while African Americans make up 60% of defendants, they represent 5%-6% of the jury pool.”

I was called back for the afternoon and sat through the voire dire phase, without being called. It was fascinating to watch the 13 jurors being questioned and selected. The person on trial was a white male. The next day, I was told not to come in. The third day I was told to report at 9am. I did so and was called to the jury box. There was another white man on trial. I was dismissed by the judge shortly thereafter, and thus ended my jury duty for this round.

While I was waiting at various times this week, I read a really good article in Communication Theory from February 2003 (13:1, pp. 5-38) called “The Racial Foundaiton of Organizational Communication.” Authors Karen Lee Ashcraft and Brenda J. Allen noted that “the field’s most common ways of framing race ironically preserve its racial foundation.” They argued, rightly I think, that “the valuing difference approach ignores a … power problem. If corporate America is built around Whiteness–and if Whiteness is socially constructed as separate from and superior to darkness–how can we genuinely speak of valuing difference as a possibility?” (p. 16)

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