Defense denied new grand jury in Heath Jackson pretrial - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Defense denied new grand jury in Heath Jackson pretrial

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Heath Jackson, murdered in September 2010. Heath Jackson, murdered in September 2010.
Ricardo Strozier Ricardo Strozier
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Pre-trial motions began Monday for the man charged with murder in the death of a Columbus DJ.

Ricardo Strozier, 23, is accused of breaking into 25-year-old Heath Jackson's home and shooting him to death in August 2010.

The defense focused on the grand jury during day two of motions hearing, challenging its demographic composition as unconstitutional.

The grand jury of 11 Caucasian men, six African American women and one Caucasian woman indicted Strozier in July of 2012.

Defense attorney Melinda Ryals claimed the jury was not selected fairly and did not reflect the racial make-up of the Muscogee County population.

The defense testified the jury commission selected jurors using "force-balancing" a hand-picking method to manually balance the jury to reflect the current population.

However, the defense said that system of choosing juror was flawed and not random.  The defense argued there were not enough African Americans or Hispanics on the jury.

A list of more than 4,000 grand juror's makeup the pool the commission chooses from to accurately represented Muscogee County's population.

Officials testified they began working on the grand jury in February 2010.  At the time the only census that was available was the 2000 census, according to jury manager Marsha Coram.

Expert Satiation Jeffery Martin testified the 2000 census reported more Caucasians than African Americans and a very small representation of Hispanics in Muscogee County.

It took the commission over a year to complete jury selection at which time a new census was released shortly after.

The 2011 census showed variations in the Muscogee County demographic, variations the defense says should have been taken into consideration when choosing the jury.

District attorney Julia Slater said the jury composition was within 5% accuracy to the population which is permitted by law, regardless of the census that was used.

Slater also said the new census came out shortly after the commission finished their work which took over a year, it would've been illogical to ask them to start over at that point.

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Muscogee County Judge Gil BcBride made a ruling in one of more than 100 pretrial motions in the Heath Jackson murder trial Wednesday.

Judge McBride denied the defenses motion to select a new grand jury.

The defense argued the commission that selected the jury did not use the most current census report, creating a disproportionate panel.

However, Judge McBride said that when the commission began choosing jurors they, "relied on the most consistent information that was available at the time."

According to Judge McBride, the disparities in the racial demographic of the grand jury and the county population did not exceed 5%. By law, the indictment is constitutional and will stand.

The issue of security also came up several times over the first three days of the pretrial.

The defense is concerned about potential jurors and what they could see on News Leader 9 and in the courtroom once the trial begins.

The defense called it "pretrial prejudice".  Defense attorneys said they were making sure Strozier's constitutional rights are not violated.

The defense is requesting the deputies dress in suits, like deputies in federal court, and not their traditional uniforms.

The defense claimed the uniforms imply Strozier was dangerous.  Judge Gil McBride will rule on the motion in the morning. No trial date has been set yet.

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