Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Bill to Reduce Number of Peremptory Challenges Advances
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a bill that would reduce the number of peremptory challenges available in misdemeanor cases.
Current law allows each party either six or 10 peremptory challenges, depending on whether the maximum sentence for the charged offense exceeds or does not exceed 90 days in jail. SB 794, by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, would cut that to five per side in all misdemeanors.
In addition, in multiple defendant cases, current law allows either five or four additional peremptories per defendant, while SB 794 would reduce the number to two.
The bill is backed by the Judicial Council, the California Judges Association, and a number of trial courts. The Los Angeles Superior Court has not taken a position, according to a committee analysis released Monday
CJA President Rob Glusman, a Butte Superior Court judge, told the MetNews last year that he considers the bill a good start to dealing with the problems associated with prolonged voir dire. He expressed support for reducing the number of challenges in felony cases as well.
Glusman noted that he himself had a trial in which 18 peremptory challenges were used in a drunk driving case in which the entire presentation of evidence took two hours. Supporters also say the bill will save the courts money by reducing the number of venire members and will allow staff to be redirected to other areas.
The bill is opposed by the California District Attorneys Association, California Public Defenders Association, and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. Critics say the bill will increase the number of hung juries and make it harder to identify and remove biased and incompetent jurors.
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