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Convicted felons now allowed to serve on juries in California

Posted at 10:51 PM, Jan 13, 2020

Convicted felons can now decide the fate of others in the criminal justice system in California.

It's a part of a new state law that gives felons more of their rights back.

Santa Maria resident David Ligon says he's been in and out of jail on drug convictions for the last eight to nine years.

He says being a convicted felon is something that's tough to put behind you.

"Everybody's made mistakes, I just got caught. You initial a box as a result of taking a plea bargain, and having those rights taken away makes it very difficult in the community to get employment and basically feel trusted," Ligon explained.

Now under a new state law, felons who have completed probation and parole are eligible to serve on a jury in California.

However, the law does exclude those who are convicted sex offenders.

"I made mistakes, but I'm on the right track right now. I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do--jumping through the hoops. I feel I deserve my rights back," Ligon said.

Santa Barbara County Probation Manager Spencer Cross says the new law is a part of a renewed interest by the state in criminal justice reform.

"When you have all of your rights stripped away, whether it's your right to privacy or right to be on a jury or right to vote--think anytime you can restore somebody and give them something back that they've lost, there's a feeling of accomplishment," Cross explained.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow says felons should be excluded in certain situations. For example: "Domestic abusers should not be able to serve as a juror on those types of cases."

In a statement he goes on to say: "Hopefully potential jurors with felony convictions will be honest about their status so the people can have a fair opportunity to decide whether to excuse the juror in a case where their service would not be appropriate."

This new state law brings California in line with more than 20 other states that allow people with prior felony convictions to serve on juries.

The author of the original bill (SB 310) says it was aimed at helping minorities have a true jury of their peers. Previous state law excluded a disproportionate number of California's residents of color from ever serving on a jury.