Non-U.S.-citizen illegally served on Georgia grand jury indicting U.S. citizens

4:31 PM, May 23, 2013   |    comments
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CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (WXIA) -- A non-U.S.-citizen -- a woman who is a resident alien and is legally in the U.S. -- served as member of a Bartow County Grand Jury for most of last month.

During the April term of the Grand Jury, the woman helped indict U.S. citizens, leading to their arrests on various criminal charges.

District Attorney Rosemary Greene said Wednesday that the woman was kicked off of the Grand Jury at the end of April, based on a tip received by the sheriff.

"The sheriff's office contacted me that they had received some information that one of the Grand Jurors was not a U.S. citizen, the Grand Juror was a resident alien," Greene said. "We were very lucky that we caught it when we did. None of these cases went to trial. We don't have guilty verdicts on something now that has a defective indictment."

Greene had to go back to the Grand Jury after the resident alien was removed and take two days this week re-indicting more than 130 cases, at a cost to the taxpayers of $1,540, which is the cost of paying the remaining 22 Grand Jurors their $35 a day.

It used to be that jurors in Georgia were chosen from among registered voters. But state law changed in 2011, and now jurors are also chosen from among registered drivers, in order to include a broader cross-section of society.

It's up to the courts to weed out prospective jurors who do not meet the qualifications, such as being U.S. citizens, being residents of the county where they are called to serve, and having no felony record.

But there are no background checks of jurors before they are sworn in. It's the honor system.

"That is the basis of our jury system," Greene said. "We have to rely on people coming forward and telling he truth, telling us if they're qualified. And it's a wonderful system. And it works 99 percent of the time ... Our clerk and our judge went over all of the qualifications as they're supposed to do to make sure that we had 23 people who were qualified to serve as Grand Jurors. At no point in time did this individual give any indication that they were not a United States citizen."

It's a felony if they lie, and the sheriff is investigating whether to charge the woman.  Her name and nationality have not been released to the public, yet.

Greene said a transcript of the court session last month just before the Grand Jury was sworn in indicates that the judge asked the jurors, as a group, all of the required qualification questions.

"The judge goes through a list of the qualifications. The first question that's asked is, 'Are you a United States citizen?'" and Greene said that's when the woman should have verbally responded "No."

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