Journal of Social Sciences

Venire Reform-Assessing the State and Federal Efforts to Attain Fair, Cross-Sectional Representation in Jury Pools

Thomas White and Ellen Baik

DOI : 10.3844/jssp.2010.113.118

Journal of Social Sciences

Volume 6, Issue 1

Pages 113-118

Abstract

Problem statement: The sixth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to be tried by an impartial jury of peers and the question of what constitutes an “impartial” jury has spawned constitutional controversies in the last several decades as the population of the United States became more ethnically and racially diverse. The Supreme Court has consistently held that an “impartial” jury is a jury chosen from a venire, or jury pool, fairly representative of the community’s demographics and this became known as the fair, cross-section requirement for the venire. Federal and state governments have traditionally relied on voter registration lists as their venire source and scholars have argued that the venire source must expand beyond voter registration lists in order to better represent minority groups and thus to meet the fair, cross-section requirement mandated by the Supreme Court. In this study, we examined whether state and federal governments have expanded their venire sources to attain a more representative venire. Approach: To determine whether the federal and state governments have expanded their venire source lists we compiled federal and state requirements on jury source lists. To obtain federal source lists, we analyzed the most recent court orders specifying jury sources to be used in the districts. To determine states’ venire sources, we compiled and analyzed the jury venire statutes of fifty states. Results: Interestingly, we found that states were more proactive in expanding their venire source lists. A majority of federal districts continue to solely rely on voter registration lists as their venire source while a majority of states are supplementing voter registration lists with other lists, such as drivers’ license records. Some of the states have completely discarded the usage of voter registration lists as their venire source. Conclusion: Mapping of federal rulings and state statutes reveal that the majority of jurisdictions in the United States continue to primarily rely on the voter registration list as their venire source.

Copyright

© 2010 Thomas White and Ellen Baik. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.