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New CA bill would include all taxpayers in jury pool in effort to increase diversity

Posted at 6:13 AM, Feb 19, 2020

Jury summons could be sent out to taxpayers in addition to registered California voters and drivers if a newly proposed bill becomes law.

U.S. Census data shows 40 percent of the state's population is white but according to Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), white people are over-represented in the jury pool.

In San Luis Obispo, where white people make up a bigger portion of the population, the county's district attorney believes the jury pool is representative.

"From my experience here in SLO County, our jury pool reflects our community," Dow said. "We have people of every ethnic group that lives within our community in every panel in every selection group I've ever picked a jury from. I don't believe there's a particular problem today with the diversity of our jury pool. It reflects SLO County. We're not as diverse as other counties are."

The latest date available shows San Luis Obispo County is 71 percent white, 20 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and 2 percent black.

The concern raised by Senate Bill 1001 is whether non-white defendants are truly receiving a jury of their peers.

Sen. Weiner believes his bill would help level the playing field for minority defendants.

Dow said he supports the measure if it means improving the jury system.

"I'm speculating that the number is probably going to be fairly small, but if it helps to enhance the pool of jurors, I don't see anything standing in the way," Dow said.

Already this year, non-violent felony offenders are now authorized to serve on juries in California.