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New juries reflect county

Photo by Karie Bradley

Photo by Karie Bradley

CONYERS -- Rockdale County court officials said they noticed a difference in the jury pool this month after a moratorium on jury trials was lifted.

The moratorium was set in April to allow for the county's Jury Commission to readjust the list of names that make up the jury box to reflect racial diversity of the county population reported in the 2010 census.

The jury box study also affected the jury pool for the Rockdale County grand jury.

Jury trials began in July after the jury box was deemed to fall within state guidelines.

The murder trial of Markus Isiah Seymore was the first criminal case scheduled for a jury trial. Seymore pleaded guilty before his trial was to begin on July 18.

The jury of six black and six white residents never had the chance to hear the state's case against Seymore. However, Rockdale County Superior Court Judge David Irwin said their presence alone likely weighed on Seymore's decision to enter a guilty plea.

Rockdale County Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson said there were "no bumps in the road" in July's jury selection.

"From an anecdotal perspective you can tell there is better representation from the county," she said. "I can't back it up with any statistics, but you could tell just by looking at the jurors there."

She said jury selection was typical compared to past months with no noticeable difference in the number of residents who failed to respond to jury notice.

Also, Wilson's office implemented a new online procedure for those wishing to file an affidavit for jury duty postponement, deferment or exemption. Residents can download a proper affidavit from the Clerk of Courts website, www.rockdaleclerk.com, under the jury information link. Affidavits must be notarized or signed under oath and submitted in person or by mail to the Clerk of Courts office.

Wilson said the convenience factor is key for residents. The website saves a trip to the courthouse and residents can file the affidavits sooner rather than later.

"That could save them a lot of time and make our jobs a lot easier," Wilson said.

State law allows for nine instances where jury duty postponement, deferment or exemption is allowed: medical reasons, persons 70 years of age and older, a primary caregiver of children 6 years of age and younger, teachers in a home school program, full-time college students, military personnel, non-residents of Rockdale County, non-citizens of the United States or convicted felons.