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Former Brazoria County District Clerk's jury pool selection process under scrutiny

Former District Clerk Rhonda Barchak allegedly organized jury panels of potential jurors by race and geographical region, not randomly as specified under Texas law.

ANGLETON, Texas — They say justice is blind, but the way juries were picked in Brazoria County may have tipped the scales.

“I believe it’s a due process violation that undermines the very integrity of the system,” defense attorney Stanley Schneider said.

Schneider filed paperwork Monday in an effort to get convicted murderer Anthony Adell Jr. a new trial.

Adell’s family also has an online petition seeking a reversal.

"He’s an innocent man in prison,” Adell said.

Adell’s case is among hundreds potentially impacted by the way former District Clerk Rhonda Barchak reportedly organized jury panels, or pools, of potential jurors.

They were categorized by whether they were White or non-White and lived in or outside of Pearland, not randomly as specified under Texas Law.

It’s something District Attorney Tom Selleck asked the Texas Rangers to help investigate according to a previously released statement.

Credit: KHOU

Selleck said all evidence would be presented to a grand jury regarding any crimes that may have been committed.

"Normal procedures were not followed," Schneider said. "It was a gross deviation from normal procedures.”

Barchak retired from the position after allegations first arose in August. She was first elected in 2010.

Her attorney, Chip Lewis, sent a statement.

“Multiple judges, attorneys, and dozens of other county employees were privy to the process of jury empanelment, and no one ever expressed any dissatisfaction or complaint about the process as the process did not disenfranchise potential jurors,” Lewis said.

He said any claims of systemic racism could not be further from the truth.

Folks from both political parties have taken issue with the way jurors were said to have been organized in Brazoria County and a number of civil rights activists have called for federal investigators to get involved.

Here's the full statement on behalf of Barchak:

"Rhonda assumed the duties of the Brazoria County District Clerk on July 2, 2010. She served in that role until August 26, 2021. At no time during her tenure did she do anything improper. Multiple judges, attorneys, and dozens of other county employees were privy to the process of jury empanelment, and no one ever expressed any dissatisfaction or complaint about the process as the process did not disenfranchise and potential jurors. No one had any complaints regarding the jury composition as the process was in no way intended to disadvantage minority litigants, and they knew Rhonda’s impeccable character for working with her from many years in the courthouse.

"Prior to and during Rhonda’s tenure, she was not afforded training or offered any guidance on jury empanelment. Therefore, to comply with the Government Code, she utilized the process the Judges used while empaneling grand juries. In doing so, Rhonda did her best to ensure the jury pools were a representative cross-section of Brazoria County.

"Any claims of systemic racism relative to this jury empaneling process could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, rumors that have swirled around this matter are both baseless and the product of political aspirations. The bailiff that initiated this accusation is married to a lady who intended to run for the office of Brazoria County District Clerk.

"Rhonda had zero information regarding which potential jurors would be assigned to which court or which case. The courts themselves would come get the juror information cards and the physical bodies from the randomized stack of potential jurors. More importantly, Rhonda did not know the race/ethnicity of any of the parties involved in the cases."