Jenner v. State, 012021 ARCA, CR-19-370

Docket Nº:CR-19-370
Attorney:Armstrong Teasdale LLP, by: Jonathan R. Shulan, for appellant. Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
Judge Panel:Gruber and Whiteaker, JJ., agree.
Case Date:January 20, 2021
Court:Court of Appeals of Arkansas

2021 Ark.App. 26




No. CR-19-370

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

January 20, 2021


Armstrong Teasdale LLP, by: Jonathan R. Shulan, for appellant.

Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


After a three-day jury trial, Lentonio Marcell Jenner was convicted of aggravated residential burglary, two counts of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, second-degree battery, two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced by the Washington County Circuit Court to twenty-two years' imprisonment. On appeal, Jenner argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motions to compel discovery to assure a fair and accurate cross section of the community for the jury and in denying his motion for an enhanced juror pool. We affirm.

Following an incident on October 13, 2017, the State charged Jenner with the above offenses. After eight continuances, Jenner's jury trial was scheduled to begin on October 16, 2018. On October 7, Jenner filed three motions. The first was a motion for an enhanced juror pool wherein Jenner, who is African American, alleged that the master list from which his jury was to be selected is unconstitutionally composed in that it underrepresents minorities in Washington County. Jenner asserted that limiting the pool of prospective jurors to registered voters limits the participation of minorities in the judicial process, and he moved that his pool of potential jurors be expanded to include persons who have been issued a driver's license and an identification card.

The second October 7 motion filed by Jenner was a motion to assure a fair and accurate cross section of the community for the jury. In this motion, Jenner asserted that his right to a fair and impartial jury selected from a cross section of the community can be "thwarted" by the discretion of court officials who determine how and when to contact potential jurors. Jenner moved that the court officials call jurors according to the order in which the jurors were selected for jury duty. He also requested that the circuit court excuse jurors on the record in the presence of Jenner and his counsel and that the circuit court maintain written documentation of its contact with jurors.

The third of Jenner's October 7 motions was a motion to compel discovery to assure a fair and accurate cross section of the community for the jury wherein he requested information on the racial or ethnic demographics of potential jurors in the current venire along with the demographics of the jurors who had been summoned for his trial. This motion also requested details regarding the jury-pool-selection process and software for creating a venire and selection for specific jury trials; the clerk's office's policy on the methods of contacting and recontacting potential jurors; and a copy of the yearly administrative circuit judge's determination on whether the enhanced prospective jury list should be used by Washington County.

On October 11, the circuit court entered an order directing the Washington County Circuit Clerk's office to provide Jenner with the list of the jurors called for his October 16 trial along with their questionnaires. On October 15, Jenner amended his motion to compel discovery to assure a fair and accurate cross section of the community for the jury. Jenner's counsel stated that he had spoken with Pam Penn, the jury-selection coordinator for Washington County, and Tracy Smith, the county's jury-selection-software engineer, and on the basis of those conversations, counsel believes that there are specific issues in the jury-selection process that may lead to the systemic exclusion of particular groups of jurors. Jenner's amended motion requested an electronic copy of the jury-selection software and access to Penn's trial files to perform a statistical analysis to investigate whether a representative cross section of jurors is available in Washington County. He also requested a hearing on the motion.

The circuit court held a hearing on Jenner's motions on October 15. Penn, a Washington County deputy clerk, testified that she is the jury coordinator for her office and operates the jury-selection software her offices uses. She testified that a circuit clerk is assigned to each circuit court. The clerk will pull approximately six hundred names from a list of registered voters and then prepare a packet for those six hundred people that includes a letter from the assigned judge, a jury questionnaire, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope so that the questionnaire can be returned.1 The packets are forwarded to the sheriff's office where summonses are issued and inserted, and the final packets are mailed to the six hundred potential jurors.

Penn testified that when she receives a completed questionnaire, she checks the information on it against what is in the voter-registration system, and she qualifies or disqualifies the person. She said that if a person asks to be excused, she forwards that questionnaire to the circuit court judge. Penn further testified that if a questionnaire is returned as undeliverable, she searches the personal-property database for a more recent address and mails another questionnaire if she finds a second address. Penn stated that she has received about 257 questionnaires for the current term and will continue to receive them throughout the term. These 257 names make up the master jury list.

When a circuit court requests a jury panel of a particular size, Penn testified that she uses jury-selection software to randomly pull the desired number of jurors from the master jury list. Penn testified that the jury-selection software used by Washington County was created by Tracy Smith.2 Once the software randomly produces the number of jurors Penn requests, she starts calling those people in alphabetical order, directing them to report to jury duty. She said that she calls during all different times of the day. She calls the listed cell number first, then the work number, and the home number last. If the person is not home, Penn said that she leaves a message, and she checks her voicemail the following morning. Penn testified that she almost always calls everyone on her list because many jurors are excused by the circuit court and that she often has to request the software to randomly pull supplemental names from the master list to fill the panel. Penn stated that there is one judge in Washington County who prefers that his panel be listed by the software by juror number and not alphabetically. She testified that the panel list is the same whether it is listed by juror number or...

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