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Louisiana House Defeats Proposal Allowing Convicted Felons To Serve On Juries

Representative Ted James (D-Baton Rouge)

The Louisiana House has rejected a bill that would allow convicted felons to qualify for jury duty after a five year cleansing period. 

The bill by Representative Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) would have extended the right to serve on a jury to anyone who’s been convicted of a felony, so long as they’ve gone five years without being in prison, under indictment, or on probation or parole.

Representative James told members of the House the proposal wouldn’t change anything about an attorney’s ability to remove a juror from a pool.

“Just because you’re in the jury pool," he said, "that does not actually mean you’re going to serve.”

The proposal came nearly a year after the Legislature approved reinstating voting rights to convicted felons five years after completing their sentence.  That change made more than 36,000 Louisianians eligible to vote.

This year’s bill originally would have extended the right to serve on a jury to the same group, but facing opposition from district attorneys, James amended his bill in committee, reducing the number of people impacted.

The change wasn’t enough to gain the support of the Legislature, including Representative Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville).

"Murders could be on juries for murder trials potentially, rapists for rape trials, burglars for burglary trials. You’d open all that up within this bill," said Representative Bacala.

Current Louisiana law prevents anyone convicted of a felony from serving on a jury unless they’ve been pardoned by the Governor. The majority of states and the federal government operate under the same rule.

James noted the current restrictions on jury duty are more severe than those placed on someone running for elected office in the state.

“You can serve in the House of Representatives, but you cannot be eligible for jury service. I think something is wrong with that,” he told members of the House. 

Last November, the majority of Louisiana voters supported a constitutional amendment requiring convicted felons to wait five before running for public office.