The American Judicature Society has honored reporter Mark Houser of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for an invstigative story headlined, “A jury of peers? County system underrepresents mostly black neighborhoods.” The newspaper used computerized mapping and statistical analysis of 45,000 jurors to show that in Allegheny County, Pa., blacks and whites do not have a reasonably equal chance of being called to jury duty, as the U.S. Supreme Court requires.
Houser’s four-month investigation showed that each year, 30,000 jury qualifying questionnaires, a third of the total, never come back, and the county never follows up on non-resopnses. The newspaper encouraged more public participation by publishing a clip-out coupon that blacks could mail to volunteer for jury service. The Pennsylvania Senate wants a statewide jury study modeled on the newspaper’s analysis.
Houser won the Toni House Journalism Award, named for the late public information officer of the U.S. Supreme Court.