INFORMATION SERVICES DIVISION
Information Services Director
Public Information Specialist
Court of Appeals
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Bldg. 1, Room E-316
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
Web Site: http://www.state.wv.us/wvsca
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||
February 22, 2006
|(304) 720 - 0342|
Charleston, W.Va. – The Administrative Office of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has released data detailing the demographic composition of West Virginia juries. This release of information coincides with what is traditionally designated as “Juror Appreciation Month” by the Supreme Court.
Regarding “Juror Appreciation Month,” West Virginia’s Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis said, “The people are at the heart of our system of government. Nowhere is this more evident than when juries render decisions in courtroom after courtroom throughout the nation. Indeed, juries are the people in action, case by case, delivering some of the most important decisions that make our country truly a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.”
Justice Larry V. Starcher added, “During my twenty years as a West Virginia trial judge, I have never doubted the wisdom of entrusting decisions to juries. The collective wisdom and conscience of a group of ordinary citizens is fairer than any expert or judge. I salute our juries and our jury system."
Whether performed manually or electronically, West Virginia juries are chosen at random from lists of registered voters and licensed drivers. In 2004, more than 66,000 West Virginians drawn from the jury pool completed juror qualification questionnaires. Not all respondents ultimately served on juries, but those participating made it as far as the jury selection process for trials. Participants answered questions regarding race and ethnicity, gender and age. The survey results closely reflect the demographic makeup of the state itself.
Estimated data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2004 indicate that West Virginia’s population the previous year comprised approximately 95% Caucasians, with the remaining 5% being less than 1% each of African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Juror Appreciation Page 2 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Of the West Virginia juror qualification survey respondents, 65.4% reported their race as white; black respondents comprised 1.3% and Asians comprised .2%. Adding these percentages results in a less than 70% response rate on the question of race.
The census report further indicates that 15.3% of West Virginians that year fit into the “65 years and over” age category. Of the juror qualification survey respondents, 13.7% marked their age as falling in the “Over 70” block.
Throughout the year, although expressly during “Juror Appreciation Month,” the Supreme Court recognizes the sacrifices West Virginia jurors make of their time and, often, their finances, to perform this civic duty. For instance, in West Virginia, while employers must allow employees to be excused from work for jury duty, they are not required to pay employees’ wages while they serve. Although jurors are paid a $40 per day stipend, they are responsible for their own meals as well as parking expenses and any other incidental spending that arises.
From an administrative perspective, the West Virginia Supreme Court’s Administrative Director Steven D. Canterbury explained, “I won’t pretend that the administration of the Courts is easier due to our system of jury trials. But it is a labor of love: everyone involved with the Court administration knows how important it is to provide judges with what they need to have the most seamless system possible in the impaneling of juries - difficult, yes, but vital, fundamentally vital.”
Information regarding jury service in West Virginia is available in detail at http://www.state.wv.us/wvsca/ , the West Virginia Court System’s Supreme Court page. Follow the link titled “Jury Information” for a jury duty handbook, frequently asked questions, previous years’ summary reports on West Virginia juries, and other information relevant to “Juror Appreciation Month.”
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