One of the biggest problems in the criminal legal system is that the notion of being tried by a jury of one’s peers has been discarded. A large number of people of color await trial in the system only to face a jury pool that is overly white, affluent, and retired.
That is because working people and people of color are unable to serve on juries, given the hardship caused by lost wages.
AB 1452, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, would authorize a first-of-its-kind pilot program in San Francisco Superior Court. The program will compensate low-income jurors $100 a day for their jury service with the goal of establishing juries that are more reflective of San Francisco’s diverse communities.
“The right to a jury of one’s peers is at the core of our justice system, but it’s common for my office, and our clients, to see juries that do not reflect the diversity of our city and our communities,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “I began raising this issue as a line deputy public defender, based on what we were seeing in court and based on what we were hearing from the community. After becoming the elected Public Defender of San Francisco, I approached the Treasurer and suggested this concrete step to address what is really a nationwide problem. After years of hard work, I am pleased that it has now evolved into a bill that will bring us one step closer towards providing fairer trials. It will also hopefully increase civic engagement opportunities for potential jurors who are otherwise deprived of the right to serve.”
“As a champion for promoting diversity in our jury pools, I am proud to co-sponsor AB 1452. Justice and fairness demand that the jurors tasked with making decisions on behalf of the community actually reflect the diversity of our city. The pilot project established by AB 1452 would be an important step towards advancing diverse jury pools in San Francisco and I urge the legislature to pass this bill,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Everyday Injustice discusses the legislation and the impact on the system in this week’s episodes.
- Deputy Public Defender Niki Solis, Chair of the Racial Justice Committee at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
- Anne Stuhldreher, Director of the Financial Justice Project in the Office of the Treasurer for the City and County of San Francisco.