In California, Juries Will Take People With Felony Convictions

Melissa Culross
November 26, 2019 - 9:30 am
Inmates at Chino State Prison exercise in the yard December 10, 2010 in Chino.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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The jury pool is California is about to become a little more diverse as the state relaxes rules that prevented people with felony records from serving as jurors. 

A law taking effect January 1, will let most Californians with a felony record, but who aren't on probation or parole will be eligible to convict and acquit others in trials. 

The change will help former felons reintegrate into society, said defense attorney Steven Clark. 

"During jury service these individuals with prior felonies will be questioned about whether that would affect their ability to be fair to both sides," said Clark. "But just having a felon wouldn't preclude them from sitting on the jury."

One in five black men in California is unable to serve on juries because of a criminal record, according to data cited by Calmatters

The California District Attorney's Association opposed the law but withdrew its opposition when it was amended to maintain a ban on "sex offenders," said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

"We want people to feel comfortable speaking with their co-jurors," said O'Malley. 

The bill was written by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). 

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the author of a quotation as state Sen. Nancy Skinner when it should have attributed the statement to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley. We regret the error.