The Louisiana Legislature has voted to allow some people convicted of felonies to serve on juries. House Bill 84 is headed to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk for approval.
Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, sponsored the legislation. If enacted, people who were convicted of felonies would be able to serve on juries after they have been off probation or 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 proposal 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 got out of the House criminal justice committee but ran into opposition when it came before the full Louisiana House.
This year, Marcelle’s bill has some powerful supporters. The Louisiana District Attorneys Association is backing the bill, which may be why the proposal won over lawmakers who are typically skeptical of such changes.
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