Houston group advocates for change in grand jury system

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- One of many things to come out of the national debate over what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, is a new and critical look at the grand jury system.

Riots and protest marches have followed, questioning the process. It also created a new community advocacy group called Houston Justice.

It's giving people applications to become Harris County grand jurors.

The form is on the Harris County District Clerk's website. It's a simple application in which people are asked if they have been convicted of felonies, are under indictment, and whether they're over 18. There's also a space for 'race.'

Durrel Douglas and some friends founded Houston Justice three days ago, wanting to effect change within the criminal justice system. "I don't think there are a lot of people who look like me and are my age on grand juries. There are a lot of people like me on the other side," he says.

The group collected more than 70 signed and notarized applications Thursday night and delivered them to the courthouse on Friday.

Chief Administrative Judge Susan Brown says the two day a week, three month commitment to become part of the panel is an impediment to potential grand jurors who work. While she says the panels are more diverse than people might think, "We encourage anyone to volunteer to serve -- especially minorities."

The group plans to collect more completed applications, and then track them, comparing the number of those selected for service, against the number of people who applied.
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