Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego)
Assemblymember Dr. Weber’s (D-San Diego) AB 3070 bill would prohibit a party from using a peremptory challenge to remove a prospective juror on the basis of the prospective juror’s race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or religious affiliation.
Introduced on Feb. 21 of this year, Dr. Weber’s bill addresses how the jury-selection process referred to in courtrooms as Voir Dire — and conducted by trial judges, prosecutors or defense attorneys — exclusively uses peremptory strikes to remove African Americans or people of color from a court case.
“The California Supreme Court has only overturned 2% of jury-selection biased cases that it has viewed in the last 20 years,” Weber said in a hearing for her AB 3070 last week. “However, this procedure has failed to achieve its constitutional mandate and purpose. Social science research has shown that African Americans are excluded from juries from peremptory challenges at a much higher rate, as much as two-and-half times, than prospective jurors of other races are eliminated. The results have been especially detrimental to African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color.”
The bill would also allow a party to object to the use of a peremptory challenge to raise the issue of improper bias based on these criteria. Upon objection, the bill would require the party exercising the challenge to state the reasons the peremptory challenge has been exercised.
In the California law books, during jury selection, potential jurors are excused “for cause” when a judge discovers that they may impartially view the case. Whether it’s the defense or prosecution, each side may exercise some limited number of peremptory strikes to excuse additional jurors without offering a reason.
The current law prohibits a party from using a peremptory challenge to remove a prospective juror on the basis of an assumption that the prospective juror is biased merely because of the sex, race, color, religion, national origin, and ancestry.
In addition, it is illegal to eliminate a potential juror on the bases of ethnic group identification, age, mental disability, physical disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation of the prospective juror, or on similar grounds.