Wichita Falls, TX - Tuesday several criminal justice related laws took effect in Texas. One scrapped the state's 'pick-a-pal' or 'key man' system of selecting a grand jury.
"This has always been an option for Texas to my knowledge Wichita County for years and years always used the commissioners system or what the opponents call pick-a-pal," said 30th District Court Judge Bob Brotherton.
The old system allowed judges to appoint commissioners to pick jurors when seating a grand jury. Supporters of the new law viewed the old system as bias, a conflict of interest and lacked a diverse candidate pool.
Judge Brotherton has overseen several high-profile cases in Wichita County. Most recently, the Teddie Whitefield, Sharon Bankhead and Brent Benefield trials. He will follow the new law, but does not think that it will have a major effect on the results of the candidate pool.
"We could never and would never systematically exclude a minority group, women, retired people. -- So I don't think it's going to change very much," said Judge Brotherton. "I just think it's going to be different the way I do it."
Under the new law, Judge Brotherton will no longer be able to appoint grand-jury commissioners. instead, he will notify the county clerk to summons a random group of people and from that panel he will seat a grand jury.
"I'm going to try and select twelve people that do represent a cross-section. men, women, younger people, older people, different races, but I'm going to be at the mercy of this random panel," said Judge Brotherton.
Texas was the last state in the United States to do away with this method.