Snafu discovered in Allen County’s jury selection process

LIMA — Allen County Common Pleas Court judges Jeffrey Reed and Terri Kohlrieser on Tuesday said algorithms used by an independent third-party contractor employed by the county to create a list of eligible voters may have inadvertently resulted in the names of some ineligible residents being included on jury lists.

The judges called an impromptu press conference at noon Tuesday to discuss what Reed said was newly-discovered information surrounding the county’s compilation of jury pool lists. The announcement came on the heels of a motion filed last week by a Lima attorney challenging the validity of the current pool of potential jurors available to hear criminal cases.

Reed said that after the local courts experienced issues in recent months of getting enough eligible jurors for criminal trials “we began working diligently to look into where the problems may lie.”

He said talks have taken place with county election board officials, whose job it is to prepare a list of registered voters who have cast a ballot at least once in the past four years, and representatives of the U.S. Postal Service in an attempt to identify any shortcomings in the process.

Reed said information was obtained Tuesday morning that suggested the data processing firm JuryTRAC, which annually helps the county compile a random list of eligible voters from which potential jurors are selected, may have erred in its use of technology that was mismatched for the task.

“We’ve identified this morning where we believe an issue is with the JuryTRAC company because of how it fits the logic of their technology,” Reed said. He said the Ohio-based firm apparently had been producing voter lists that included the names of residents whose voter registrations had lapsed.

“When we put out calls for jurors, we were getting names that probably shouldn’t be on that list. As soon as we learned that this morning, after talking with a JuryTRAC representative, we immediately said, ‘Stop doing it that way,’” Reed said.

Kohlrieser said the changes promised by the data company will not be the answer to all problems associated with the jury selection process but should reduce some errors.

“There are definitely some mail delivery issues still to be addressed, but we don’t believe there has been any intentional wrongdoing on anybody’s part,” she said.

“We’re not trying to throw anybody under the bus here. JuryTRAC thought they were giving us a good job,” Reed added.

A hearing had been scheduled for next week in Kohlrieser’s courtroom to address concerns surrounding the jury selection process raised by Lima attorney Ken Rexford. The judge said the Ohio Supreme Court has been asked to appoint a visiting judge to hear arguments in that case due to information the two Allen County judges obtained Tuesday. Kohlrieser said next week’s hearing will likely be continued.

“I appreciate the lawyers who have pointed out these things to us,” Reed said. “It showed us we need to be better, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”