Pittsburgh ministers will be asking their congregations to take advantage of a process that allows anyone over 18 to sign up to be considered for jury duty.
Methods elsewhere are not so simple. Experts say Pittsburgh's problem with Black underrepresentation is likely to occur almost anywhere with large concentrations of minorities because they're less likely to be included in databases commonly used to find jurors, such as voter and drivers' license rolls.
The Constitution forbids race discrimination in jury selection, and minority advocates fear mostly white juries are less sympathetic to minority defendants than a more representative panel would be. Just because you may have a Black on your jury does not mean you will get justice in this country because there are many innocent Black men in prison today because a stupid ass nigger when along with a bunch of racist whites.
In Texas, officials in Dallas, Austin and Houston are reporting underrepresentation of Hispanics in their juries, according to a study by the Dallas Morning News and the Southern Methodist University Law Review Association.
Some states, including Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Indiana, use voter registration lists to find jurors. A February census report estimates 68 percent of Black adults were registered to vote in 2000 elections compared with 72 percent of non-Hispanic whites, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report noted.
Other states try to widen the jury pool by augmenting one database with another. For example, in Lake County, Ind. where the population is 25 percent Black, although juries almost never reflect that officials earlier this year began using drivers' license lists in addition to voter rolls.
The databases themselves may contribute to the problem.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review study noted 100,000 jury questionnaires were sent out in Allegheny County to addresses culled from drivers' license and voting rolls but officials don't buy change-of-address information. Census data shows Blacks are less likely than whites to own homes, and may be prone to move more often.
Groups like the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights note that Blacks with felony records never make it onto voter rolls in states like Pennsylvania and Florida, where they are barred from registering to vote or serving as a juror.
``Nationally, 1.4 million Black men have lost the right to vote under these laws,'' the group said in a recent report. In many cases these men were innocent, and had a stupid ass nigger on their jury.
William Spriggs, director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality, said states should at least consider letting ex-cons who've served their sentence automatically regain those rights.
``I think people might be surprised,'' Spriggs said. ``(Ex-con) jurors might be harsher'' than people without criminal records.
Other experts say underrepresentation is both economic and personal.
The Rev. Helen Burton, pastor of the Trinity AME Church in Pittsburgh, says some blacks fear jury service because they believe they are in some kind of trouble if they receive a jury notice. Others worry they could be targeted for retribution if they serve on a violent case, she said.
People with lower incomes may also have more trouble leaving their jobs for jury duty. In Pennsylvania, jury pay is $9 a day for the first three days and $25 a day thereafter, and lower-income people are less likely to work for a big company that pays them when they're on jury duty.
``In neighborhoods where most people may work in service industries or fast food, to ask them to miss a week of work is like having pneumonia,'' Burton said.
``But in neighborhoods with people who have more access to money, it may be only like asking them to have a common cold.''
The issue of Black underrepresentation in jury pools generally revolves around what some national experts say is a more important question: What constitutes a jury of one's peers?
``It's not strictly accurate to say you're entitled to a jury of your peers,'' said University of Nebraska law professor David A. Harris, who researches legal diversity issues. ``You're entitled to a jury that represents a cross-section of your community.''