Lawmakers in california are trying to decide whether a “jury of peers” has to mean US citizens.
Carlos Saucedo reports advocates want a more accurate cross-section of california to decide who’s guilty and who is not.
The judicial system allows defendants to be judged by a jury of their peers, and traditionally, those eligible are required by law to be US citizens, but some lawmakers in sacramento want to expand the jury pool by allowing non-citizens to serve.
“Allowing them to serve as jurors opens up the jury pool to a larger cross section of our society.”
Charles Magill has been a criminal defense attorney for 25 years and says the jury pool should reflect society, including legal residents.
“The reality is the jury is supposed to look like California. It’s supposed to look like the people that are on trial.”
bill a-b 1401 passed the assembly, thursday, along party lines.
The bill would allow non-citizens who are in the country legally to serve as potential jurors, but those eligible will still need to be at least 18 years of age and be proficient in english.
Proponents say the bill will help with the shortage of jurors.
“According to the Judicial Council, around 10-million Californians are summoned for jury duty, each year, and only four-million are eligible to serve.”
…and according to the assistant presiding judge of fresno county superior court, qualified jurors are in need and any increase would help.
“The constitution is clear that a jury should be made up of peers, and I don’t think that was suggested to be anything else but citizens of the United States.”
State assemblyman Jim Patterson voted against the bill, saying he wasn’t convinced there was an urgency for a larger pool.
“The important threshold here for this high privilege of civic responsibility ought to be citizenship.”
The bill now moves to the senate.