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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Countywide

Jurors' Rights Bill Clears State Senate

August 19, 2000|TRACY WILSON

A bill that ensures jurors know their rights when contacted by attorneys after trials is on its way to the governor after clearing the state Senate on Friday.

The legislation, AB 2567, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), whose district includes parts of western Ventura County. It passed on a vote of 35 to 1.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers frequently contact jurors at the end of criminal trials to get feedback on how certain evidence was received or how they could have been more effective advocates. Sometimes, lawyers also call jurors to investigate allegations of juror misconduct.

But in two recent cases heard by the state Supreme Court, jurors interviewed after a trial indicated they felt misled by lawyers, according to Jackson's office.

In a prepared statement, the assemblywoman said her bill would help ensure jurors are treated "courteously and fairly."

It requires lawyers who contact jurors after trials to state who they are and why they are calling. And it requires the attorney to explain that jurors have a right to refuse to talk and can receive a copy of any subsequent declarations filed in court.

"It does not limit the ability of lawyers to investigate genuine cases of jury misconduct," Jackson said, "but simply increases the likelihood jurors will not feel misled or their statements misconstrued."

If signed by Gov. Gray Davis, the bill would become effective Jan. 1.

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