TESTIMONY OF THE DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
IN OPPOSITION TO:
S.B. No. 344 (COMM) AN ACT PROMOTING DIVERSITY IN THE SELECTION OF A JURY PANEL.
JOINT COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
March 29, 2019
The Division of Criminal Justice opposes S.B. No. 344, An Act Promoting Diversity in the Selection of a Jury Panel, and would respectfully recommend the Committee take NO ACTION on this legislation.
The Division respectfully submits that the bill is almost surely unconstitutional in that it raises equal protection concerns to the extent that it would permit or require the jury administrator to racially/ethnically manipulate venire panels to match a “fair cross section,” and permits or requires trial courts to racially/ethnically manipulate the petit jury for the same purpose.
The existing jury selection process in Connecticut includes long-established provisions to assure the selection of a “jury of one’s peers.” In fact, our state is one of the few, if not the only, jurisdiction that requires individual voir dire for of prospective jurors. This right is so cherished that it is enshrined in Article IV of the Amendments to our Connecticut Constitution: “The right to question each juror individually by counsel shall be inviolate.” Further, there is substantial case law under both our state and federal Constitutions to guard against any bias in the selection of a jury and providing redress where appropriate. The courts have long addressed these issues and continue to do so to this day. What is envisioned in this bill is essentially simply another form of the same type of manipulation the courts are already addressing.
In conclusion, the Division respectfully recommends the Committee take NO ACTION on S.B. No. 344. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.