The Louisiana House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice voted 6-4 Thursday to allow some people convicted of felonies to serve on juries. The legislation has now been forwarded to the full House for consideration.
Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, is sponsoring the bill. 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 a gubernatorial pardon has vacated their convictions.
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. This 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 also got out of the House criminal justice committee, but then 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.