Convicted felons can’t serve on Hawaii juries. This lawmaker says it’s time to change that
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Convicted felons are barred from serving on a jury in Hawaii.
But state Sen. Karl Rhoads has introduced a bill to change that.
The proposal could open up jury duty for nearly 5,000 residents with a criminal past, according to Rhoads.
“Almost all felons get out of jail or get out of prison at some point,” Rhoads said, adding this would prevent recidivism by giving them back a benefit upon completion of their sentence, parole and probation.
“The difference between a 19-year-old and a 35-year old or a 36-year-old is usually pretty substantial.”
Rhoads said many people had convictions decades ago and should now be allowed to sit in judgment of others.
“People grow up, and they figure out that what they did was stupid and wrong,” he said.
But critics of the bill said it could give the defense an advantage.
The benefit would not extend to people convicted of certain crimes, including Class A felonies like murder or those who were sentenced to life.
Megan Kau, a former deputy prosecutor turned defense attorney, said the change could help diversify a jury pool.
“Studies have shown that minorities, especially Native Hawaiians, are over-represented in detention facilities and in the criminal justice system,” Kau said.
She also pointed out that both the government and defense have the right to use peremptory challenges so they can exclude a convicted felon from a jury if they choose.
“Each side gets to bump a prospective juror without having to give a reason why you’re bumping that juror,” she said.
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday morning.
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