Testimony of Stephen N. Ment Judiciary Committee Public Hearing March 26, 2009
Senate Bill 646, An Act Excluding Sexual
Assault And Other Violent Crime Victims From Jury Service in Certain
Thank you for the
opportunity to testify, on behalf of the Judicial Branch, on Senate Bill
646, An Act Excluding Sexual Assault and Other Violent Crime
Victims from Jury Service in Certain Criminal Cases. We are opposed
to this bill.
At the outset, the Judicial Branch
recognizes that jury service for certain individuals can be difficult and
even traumatic. We would respectfully note, though, that safeguards already
exist in law and practice, making this costly bill unnecessary.
For example, judges are available during
jury introduction and the voir dire process and can excuse individuals for
any given case. In addition, even prior to appearing, prospective jurors
may apply for and be granted a disqualification for medical reasons.
Turning to the bill itself, it would permit
prospective jurors to be excused from serving as a juror on a criminal case
if they identify themselves as a victim of a sexual assault or other violent
crime and the Jury Administrator verifies that status. However, it does not
address how verification would occur. We anticipate that it would place a
significant burden on our Jury Administration, since more than half a
million citizens are summoned annually; we could not accommodate this burden
without additional resources.
Furthermore, the bill does not take into
account that the Jury Administrator has no way of knowing what cases are
scheduled in a particular judicial district on any given day. Thus, it
would be impossible for her to ensure that a prospective juror would be voir
dired for civil matters only. Again, even if this proposal was feasible
and we dont believe that it is significant additional staff would be
required to implement it.
Given that the safeguards mentioned above
are in place and that the bill places an administrative burden on the
judiciary in these difficult financial times we would respectfully request
that the committee not take favorable action on this bill.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.