Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ricks v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

May 15, 2017

RICKS
v.
THE STATE.

          NAHMIAS, Justice.

         Otis Ricks has been indicted along with three other men for murder, armed robbery, criminal street gang activity, and related crimes in connection with the shooting death of Vanessa Thrasher at a lounge in Atlanta on August 16, 2012. The State has given notice of its intent to seek the death penalty against Ricks and at least one of his co-defendants, Demario Carman.[1] The defendants' cases were severed for trial, although some of Ricks's and Carman's pretrial proceedings have been conducted jointly and the October 31, 2013 hearing discussed below was conducted jointly with Carman and five defendants from unrelated cases.

         During the pretrial proceedings, Carman filed a motion asking the trial court to issue an order declaring Fulton County's method of selecting trial jurors to be in violation of this Court's Jury Composition Rule and directing that his trial jury be selected in a manner not violating the Rule. The court held an evidentiary hearing on October 31, 2013, in which Ricks participated and was allowed to orally adopt Carman's motion. The trial court denied the motion on June 25, 2014. Ricks filed a written motion seeking the same relief on February 6, 2015. Because a new jury list had been created since the original order on the matter, the court conducted another evidentiary hearing on June 1, 2015, and then denied the motion on December 30, 2015.

         The trial court had denied Ricks's initial request for interim review on September 30, 2014. On December 31, 2015, however, the court filed an order authorizing his application to this Court for interim review. See OCGA §§ 17-10-35.1, 17-10-35.2; UAP II (F), (H). The application was docketed here on September 8, 2016, following a lengthy delay in the transmission of the complete pretrial record by the trial court clerk. This Court granted the application on October 24, 2016, and directed the parties to address the following question:

Did the trial court err by denying Ricks's claim that the list from which Fulton County jurors are summoned is produced in a manner that violates the Jury Composition Rule?

         For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that the answer to this question is yes, and we therefore reverse the trial court's rulings to the contrary and remand the case with direction that the court ensure that Ricks's trial jury is selected in a manner that complies with the Jury Composition Rule.[2]

         The Jury Composition Reform Act

         1. This Court adopted the Jury Composition Rule ("the Rule") to effectuate the Jury Composition Reform Act of 2011 ("the Act"), Ga. L. 2011, p. 59. The Act was the product of a seven-year effort by this Court's Jury Composition Committee, led by then-Justice Hugh P. Thompson, to develop recommended changes to OCGA § 15-12-40.1, related statutes, and the Unified Appeal Procedure used in death penalty cases in order to provide a modern method of preparing the lists from which local courts select grand juries and trial juries. See generally Catherine Fitch, Jury Composition Reform, 18 Ga. Bar J. 13, 13 (Oct. 2012). The Act replaced the previous jury composition process, which allowed each of Georgia's 159 counties to control their own jury lists. Driven largely by a prior version of the Unified Appeal Procedure, under the old process each county utilized so-called "forced balancing" in an attempt to make its jury lists include men and women and certain identifiable racial groups in proportion to the county's population as determined by the most recent decennial census. See Williams v. State, 287 Ga. 735, 735-736 (699 S.E.2d 25) (2010), superseded by the Act as noted in Ellington v. State, 292 Ga. 109, 118 n.2 (735 S.E.2d 736) (2012). In some counties with fast-changing demographics, the process left those proportions in the jury pool significantly out of line by the end of the decade. See id. at 738-741 (Melton, J., dissenting) (criticizing the disparities authorized by the old process). See also Fitch, supra, at 13-14, 16-18 (describing forced balancing and its problems).

         The 2011 Act was designed to replace that jury composition system with a consistent methodology that produces lists of eligible jurors which are updated annually for each county and more accurately reflect each county's jury-eligible population. To this end, the Act gave centralized responsibility for preparing each county's master jury list to the Council of Superior Court Clerks ("the Clerks Council"). See Ga. L. 2011, p. 59, §§ 1-5, 1-16 (amending OCGA §§ 15-12-1 and 15-12-40.1). The Clerks Council is required to provide each county with a "county master jury list" on July 1 of each year, and each county's jury clerk is directed to "choose a random list of persons from the county master jury list to comprise the venire" for each case to be tried. Id. § 1-16 (codified as amended as OCGA § 15-12-40.1 (d), (g)).

         For use in compiling these lists of potential jurors, the Act directs the Clerks Council to obtain voter registration records from the Secretary of State and driver's license and identification card records from the Department of Driver Services ("DDS"); the Act also directs the Clerks Council to obtain records on individuals who are ineligible for jury service, including certain records regarding mentally incompetent persons and convicted felons who have not had their civil rights restored. See id. § 1-16 (codified as amended as OCGA § 15-12-40.1 (b), (c)). In 2014, the Act was amended to adjust and supplement the sources of information on eligible and ineligible jurors, including adding records of deaths and of persons who are not citizens. See Ga. L. 2014, p. 451, § 8 (amending OCGA § 15-12-40.1 (b), (c), (e), and (f)). The Act was amended again in 2015 in a manner not relevant here. See Ga. L. 2015, p. 422, § 5-18. Additional amendments regarding, among other things, the way in which the Clerks Council obtains data about convicted felons and mentally incompetent persons and the adoption of a system for assigning a unique identifier for each entry on the master jury list, were enacted during the 2017 legislative session and will take effect on July 1, 2017. See Senate Bill 95 (Ga. L. 2017, p.___) ("SB 95").

         The Jury Composition Rule

         2. The detailed methodology used to convert the information gathered about potential jurors into jury lists is set forth in the Jury Composition Rule promulgated by this Court. The initial version of the Rule, which was drafted alongside the Act by the Jury Composition Committee, was issued on December 8, 2011, with an effective date of July 1, 2012. On February 13, 2013, this Court issued two orders regarding the Rule. First, because of an excessive number of duplicate records in the initial set of master jury lists provided to the counties by the Clerks Council in July 2012, the Court issued a temporary order revising parts of the Rule, which would be in effect only from the date of the order until June 30, 2013. This temporary revision provided specific procedures by which county officials could screen the lists provided by the Clerks Council to eliminate presumed duplicates, with those officials required to report the presumed duplicates to the Council. Second, the Court issued an order that replaced the entire Jury Composition Rule effective July 1, 2013. The Court amended the Rule again on February 21, 2014, in a manner not relevant here.

         Because this case is about alleged noncompliance with the Jury Composition Rule, we will detail the pertinent parts of the current version of the Rule, which have been in effect since July 2013.[3] The body of the Rule includes the following provisions:

1. Purpose. The purpose of the rule is to set reasonable standards for the preparation, dissemination and improvement of inclusive statewide and county master jury lists.
2.Business Rules. The statewide and county master jury lists shall be compiled substantially in accordance with the business rules set forth in Appendix A.
3. Inclusiveness.
(a) Each county master jury list should be no less than 85% inclusive of the number of persons in the county population age 18 years or older as derived from the most recent decennial census or county population estimate (Table B01001 as of the date of this rule) from United States Census Bureau ("USCB") for the calendar year when the list is generated. The calculation shall be made by dividing the number of persons in the county master list by the county population age 18 years or older according to the applicable census data.
. . . .
4. Certification.
(a) Upon completion of the statewide and county master jury lists, the Council of Superior Court Clerks or its list vendor shall certify to the Supreme Court that it has complied with the business rules for preparation of the master jury lists and that the county master jury lists do or do not meet the inclusiveness threshold.
. . . .
6. Local clerks and jury commissioners shall not add or delete names from the county master jury list, but may excuse, defer, or inactivate names of jurors known to be ineligible or incompetent to serve pursuant to OCGA § 15-12-1.1. The clerk of the board of jury commissioners shall maintain a list of jurors excused, deferred or inactiv[ated] who are not part of the eligible juror array derived from the master jury list.
7. All other issues of jury management shall be as authorized by law or by local court order.

         The business rules set forth in Appendix A of the Rule begin by explaining that "the three [primary] sources of data for the creation of the statewide and county master jury lists" are the records from the Department of Driver Services, the Secretary of State's voter registration records, and the statewide master jury list from the previous year. Appendix A then directs that "[t]he following record sources shall be used as sources of data to be applied to purge persons from the lists": death certificates from the Department of Public Health; a list of persons who have been convicted of felonies and who have not had their civil rights restored; a list provided by the Secretary of State of persons declared to be mentally incompetent; and "County Exception Lists."

         Regarding the county exception lists, Appendix A says:

A request shall be made of each Superior Court Clerk or county jury clerk for an electronic listing of all persons within such county who have been permanently excused or inactivated from jury service as follows:
(a) Persons who have been permanently excused or inactivated due to mental and/or physical disability;
(b) Persons who are 70 years of age or older and who have requested and been granted permanent excusals or inactivation from jury service as the result of their age;
(c) Persons who have been identified by the clerk as being deceased;
(d) Persons who have been identified by the clerk as having been convicted of a felony and who have not had their civil rights restored;
(e) Persons who have been identified by the clerk as having been declared mentally incompetent by Order of a court;
(f) Persons who have been determined by the clerk as having an address which is undeliverable after reasonable efforts have been made by the clerk to locate such person;
(g) Persons who have been identified by the clerk as not being a resident of the county; and
(h) Persons who have been identified by the clerk as not being a citizen of the United States.
The county exception lists shall include the data elements specified by the [Clerks Council]. These listings shall be submitted by annual deadlines as determined by the Council for use in compiling the master jury lists.

         "TASK ONE" of Appendix A instructs the Clerks Council on the "Removal of Ineligible Persons from Primary Sources." Under the subheading "County Exception Lists, " there are instructions to purge names from the statewide jury list in each of the categories listed above based on the lists from the county clerks, except for categories (f) and (g) involving persons with undeliverable addresses and persons identified as not being residents of the county. (As noted below, names in those two categories are purged from individual county master lists based on the county exception lists in "TASK EIGHT.") This purging is to be done using "deterministic matching methods" and six specific data fields.[4] TASK ONE concludes with the following statement: "This provision shall not limit the authority of the court to excuse or inactivate such persons locally pursuant to Paragraph 6 of the Jury Composition Rule."

         Paragraph 6 of the Rule says: "Local clerks and jury commissioners shall not add or delete names from the county master jury list, but may excuse, defer, or inactivate names of jurors known to be ineligible or incompetent to serve pursuant to OCGA § 15-12-1.1." In turn, that statute sets forth a list of reasons for which a person may be temporarily "excused or deferred from jury duty" by the court or its designee, including being "engaged . . . in work necessary to the public health, safety, or good order" or showing "other good cause" for exemption; being a full-time post-secondary student (during the time the student is enrolled and taking classes or exams); being a primary caregiver of a young child or a disabled person; being a primary teacher in a home study program (during the period the person is teaching); and being a military service member or a service member's spouse under specified circumstances. OCGA § 15-12-1.1 (a), (c). Persons age 70 or older may be excused and "inactivate[d]" permanently, § ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.