Brazoria County District Clerk selected juries based on race, geography and potentially tainted trial results

A former Brazoria County district clerk may have broken the law by using race and location to hold juries.

District Clerk Rhonda Barchak retired the day after Brazoria County informed the public about its method of assembling the jury.

“The Brazoria County Criminal District Prosecutor’s Office recently received information that irregularities may have occurred in the jury assembly of the Brazoria County Clerk’s Office,” wrote District Criminal Prosecutor Tom. Selleck in a press release on August 25.

“Based on the information provided to date, the district attorney’s office considers that trial panels may have been constituted in a manner inconsistent with applicable laws and laws. “

The Texas Secretary of State randomly chooses potential jurors from lists of county residents who have a driver’s license or who have registered to vote and sends those names to the county.

According to Barchak’s lawyer, she sorted the names on those lists between residents of Pearland and residents outside of Pearland. Then she sorted them into whites and not whites. Barchak would use this method of organization to put the come together.

Texas law requires juries to be selected at random.

“The clerk will randomly select the jurors by a computer or other random selection process and write or print the names, in the order selected, on the jury roll from which the jury is to be selected to judge the case. “, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure reads.

Barchak’s lawyer said Texas monthly that this method was intended to obtain a representative sample of the county.

“The process she puts in place gives the jury a better chance of being a representative sample, which is what we’re supposed to do with a pool of jurors,” Lewis said. “Just take the cards and shuffle them – maybe they shuffled well, and maybe they didn’t.”

He added that Barchak knew nothing about the trials his selected jurors would attend.

So far, the explanation has not satisfied a wide range of politically active activists and local politicians worried about the effects of Barchak’s method.

“It’s shameful,” activist and former Black Panther chapter leader Quanell X said.

“It’s heartbreaking, because you might have men in jail and women in jail, who are only there because of a racist clerk who had stacked the game in the jury selection process and the had corrupted. “

Pearland City Councilor Luke Orlando (Position 1), a Republican, said he was “extremely concerned” by the news.

“By definition you are creating slices of voters based on different characteristics, based on their race, based on their geography, that’s inherently not random,” Orlando said.

The Texas Rangers and the district attorney’s office are both investigating the case. If Barchak’s method is found to be illegal, it could mar the results of thousands of cases.

The County Commissioners Court held an emergency meeting to replace her on August 27, the day after she left. Commissioners have approved Donna Starkey, selected by Brazoria County district judges, to hold the post until the next general election in November 2022.

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