The Louisiana House voted 55-42 Tuesday to allow people convicted of felonies to serve on juries. The legislation has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, is sponsoring House Bill 84. If passed, people who were convicted of felonies would be able to serve on juries after they have been off probation, parole and out of prison for five years. Currently, people convicted of felonies are banned from being part of the jury pool unless they receive a gubernatorial pardon.
A larger swath of people convicted of felonies — including some who remain on parole and probation — had their voting rights restored by the Louisiana Legislature two years ago. Marcelle’s legislation is seen as an extension of those voting rights efforts.
Being eligible for jury duty doesn’t necessarily mean a person will be selected to serve as a juror. Prosecutors and defense attorneys could still use their authority to strike individuals with felony convictions from juries.
Similar legislation ran into problems two years ago when it was sponsored by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge. James’ bill ran into opposition when it came before the full Louisiana House.
But this year, the legislation has some powerful supporters. The Louisiana District Attorneys Association is backing the bill, which may help the proposal win over lawmakers who are typically skeptical of such changes.