Murder Defendant Wants Trial Delayed to Get Post-Census Jury Pool

A Georgia man accused of killing two people in a 2001 home invasion says his constitutional rights would be violated if he is tried by a jury drawn from 2000 Census figures.

Floyd Wayne Williams Jr., who is black, is to be tried in South Atlanta’s Clayton County, the Associated Press reports. The county has seen a surge of black residents since the 2000 Census: In 2000, the black population was 50.6 percent, and it had jumped to 64.5 percent by 2007.

In Clayton County, jury pools are drawn from voter registration lists, driver’s license data and utility records and then tweaked based on Census race and gender data to reflect an accurate cross-section of the population.

At a Monday hearing, Williams’ attorneys said Clayton County should either wait until the 2010 Census is finished or use the 2007 population estimate.

State attorney Lalaine Briones said that to force county jury administrators to use annual Census estimates would be a burden and to delay the trial for the Census would be unnecessary.

“The defendant has no right to a jury that perfectly mirrors the county’s population,” Briones told the AP.

Jeffrey Abramson, a law professor at the University of Texas and author of We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy, told the Associated Press that attorneys are increasingly using a jury’s racial makeup as a defense argument.

“It does seem to be a systemic problem nationwide, because it’s difficult updating the list and also because the courts are reluctant to fault the existing lists,” Abramson told the AP.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert last fall in the case of Diapolis Smith, whose murder conviction by an all-white jury in Grand Rapids, Mich., was thrown out by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. For his case, there were only three blacks in the pool of 60 to 100 prospective jurors, the Associated Press noted at the time.

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