Harris County District Clerk Marilyn Burgess is determined to make the county’s jury system more representative of its ethnic makeup.
Marilyn Burgess speaks
District Clerk Marilyn Burgess launched a comprehensive outreach campaign to increase jury participation in Harris County, particularly among African Americans and Hispanics. Under the message “Stand for Justice – Participate in Jury Service,” the campaign entails the display of three billboards, social media posts, and a Public Service Announcement (PSA), along with strategic advertising on local minority media and outreach activities in English and Spanish.
Historically, jury participation has been low in Harris County. In recent years, it has been on the 20% range, with participation of African Americans and Hispanics being even lower.
“The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a jury of one’s peers. Increased participation and juries that are more diverse can help our justice system to be more fair and equitable. This outreach campaign is a call to action,” said Ms. Burgess.
The billboards purposely show a diverse group of people who are raising their right hand as if they were being sworn in as jurors. Anecdotally, along with Ms. Burgess, all the people depicted on the billboards are employees from the District Clerk’s Office (DCO) who volunteered to participate in the campaign.
Marilyn Burgess must be commended for her intentional effort to ensure the jury pool more closely make up the ethnic diversity of Harris County. It is an initiative well overdue and she is bringing it to fruition.
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