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Proposed bill could allow convicted felons to serve on juries

Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 22:12:41-04

San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow, brought up an interesting topic when he created a Facebook poll about SB-310, which is aimed at criminal justice reform​ and would allow convicted felons to be selected as members of a jury, unless they are currently in prison or jail.

While Dow is supportive of criminal justice reform, he’s hesitant about this bill​.

“Do we want people that are convicted of sexual offenses, who are serving on a jury where maybe there’s a charge sex offense, do we want people who are registered sex offenders, sitting on our jury pools, I think the community when they have a chance to weigh in resoundingly say no,” said Dow.

Out of the more than 440 people who have weighed in on Dow’s poll, 97% of them do say no to having convicted felons join a jury​.

But defense attorney, Trace Milan believes felons have to be given a chance to succeed, once back in society.

“We tell ourselves, and we tell the world, that we’re the freest people on earth, who are governed by the fairest and most just system of government on earth and either that’s true and you can be convicted and pay your debt to society and then rejoin society, or we’re lying to ourselves, said Milan.

Now, in most cases, attorneys on both sides have about ten peremptory challenges, where they can object to a proposed juror, without needing to give a reason.​

But Dow questions the effect this bill could have on juries, as felons could now have to be accounted for​, “it will mean that perhaps there will be more people sitting on juries, that we don’t feel aren’t best for the case, but we don’t have a legal objection because the law doesn’t provide for that anymore,” said Dow.

However, Milan doesn’t see this to be an issue, “we either every felony conviction is a life sentence and you really don’t ever get your life back, you only serve some of it in a cell, then really the rest of your life is gone as far as you know it, or we are a society where you can serve your debt to society and reintegrate,” said Milan.

Dow says the purpose of the poll was to make sure people in the community are aware of the proposed bill and to give people a chance to voice their opinions to state leaders, no matter if they voted yes or no.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be next to vote on SB-310