Home>Highlight>Convicted Felons Closer to Serving on California Juries

Sen. Nancy Skinner. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)
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Convicted Felons Closer to Serving on California Juries

‘SB 310 will help ensure that California juries represent a fair cross-section of our communities’

By Katy Grimes, May 28, 2019 6:07 pm

In the State of California, a felony conviction results in a lifetime ban from jury duty. This penalty cannot be restored. Or can it?

A bill by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would allow convicted felons to serve on a jury.

“People with felony records have the right to vote in California. There is no legitimate reason why they should be barred from serving on a jury,” says Sen. Skinner. Allowing felons to vote is a new “right,” restored by Democrats in the California Legislature, under AB2466, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.

Skinner is the author of SB 310, a bill to permit a person with a felony conviction, who is not incarcerated in prison or jail, to serve on a jury.

Once convicted felons have paid their debt, “they have a legitimate right to vote,” Skinner said. However, incarceration is not the only punishment convicted felons must ride out – the loss of certain rights and privileges is another consequence of their convictions.

Skinner said “excluding felons from jury service has a disproportionate impact on African Americans, specifically African American men, given their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.” Specifically, Skinner said 30 percent of black men in California are currently banned from serving on a jury because of a felony conviction. “My bill would lift this ban,” Skinner said in the Senate Tuesday.

By law, a jury must represent a cross section of the population in a community in order to ensure that a defendant is afforded his or her constitutional right to an impartial jury, Skinner said. Therefore, by Skinner’s logic, allowing felons to serve on a jury is more representative of a cross-section of society and “a jury of our peers.”

Among the historical justifications going back to the founding of the country justifying excluding felons from jury service, is the belief that these individuals lack character and harbor an inherent bias.

“This is a civil rights issue,” Skinner said in a committee hearing. “Unfortunately, our criminal justice system has historically targeted Black and Brown people in disproportionate numbers. Making our juries more diverse is a step in the right direction to fixing this historic wrong.”

SB 310 passed the Senate on party lines.

Sponsors and supporters of SB 310 include:

A New Way of Life Re-entry Project (co-source)

All of Us of None (co-source)

American Civil Liberties Union of California (co-source)

California Public Defender’s Association (co-source)

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (co-source)

California Employment Lawyers Association

Californians United for a Responsible Budget

East Bay Community Law Center

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Fair Chance Project

Friends Committee on Legislation of California

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Root and Rebound

San Francisco Public Defender’s Office

Tides Advocacy

Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?
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6 thoughts on “Convicted Felons Closer to Serving on California Juries

  1. “This is a civil rights issue,” Skinner said in a committee hearing. “Unfortunately, our criminal justice system has historically targeted Black and Brown people in disproportionate numbers. Making our juries more diverse is a step in the right direction to fixing this historic wrong.”

    It is illegal for felons to possess firearms. Should felons regain their second amendment rights based on Sen. Nancy Skinner’s logic?

  2. They are convicted felons. Committing an act that warrants this label means that you have given up rights that are for law abiding citizens only. If you start down this path that your actions have no consequence. Unbelievable.

    1. By your logic ex felons shouldn’t be able to get a good paying job, drive a car, regain their place in society or anything else that will help them to be good citizens. Should we just segregate all ex offenders because they offended? Should we deny them the chance to participate in our “law abiding” society? If they have served their sentence and are doing what they are supposed to be doing why shouldn’t they regain their rights?

      1. Because a child molester shouldn’t serve on a jury deciding the guilt of another child molester, stupid. Would you want that if your child was raped? I think not. This is so typical California. How un-American can this crap hole get?

  3. This bill does more than just allow convicted, violent felons to serve on juries.

    SB 310 also allows felons who are currently on parole for their serious crimes to serve as jurors.
    See the official senate analysis here:
    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.xhtml

    Notice that the ban is lifted for all felons, regardless of parolee or probationer status.

    Now imagine that you’re called to serve on a jury and get sequestered during the trial. This new state law (if passed) would force law abiding citizens to interact in close quarters with dangerous, violent criminals.

    One last thought, Katy: Would these parolee/jurors in criminal trials be found in violation of the terms and conditions of their parole because of their close proximity to fellow criminals (defendant) since they aren’t allowed to be anywhere near another known criminal. Could these parolee/jurors get their parole revoked and returned to prison as a result of answering a summons for jury service?

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