Auth says jurors should have integrity, not criminal convictions

Auth says jurors should have integrity, not criminal convictions

Robert Auth

TRENTON, N.J. – A bill passed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee Monday removing criminal convictions from being a disqualifier for potential jurors harms the justice system, says Assemblyman Robert Auth.

Under the legislation (A977) amended by the committee, any person with past convictions of indictable offenses would be permitted to serve on a jury, except those who were convicted of murder or aggravated sexual assault. Currently, anyone who has been charged with an indictable offense is prohibited from jury service for life.

“If someone displays poor judgement repeatedly over and over and over again, you still feel that they’re an appropriate person to possibly sit in judgement of someone who has maybe never committed a crime in their entire life and is trying to defend their reputation?” Auth asked the representative from the ACLU testifying on the bill.

All candidates for jury duty have to undergo voir dire, a process that gives the court the opportunity to screen prospective jurors to determine if they can be fair and impartial. Auth argued that the change in the eligible pool of jurors would create further backlogs in an already overburdened court system.

“Why would we even introduce somebody into the process if we look and say, ‘Hey, four, five, six times, maybe this one is not qualified?’ Why wouldn’t we just eliminate that instead of cluttering up the court system?” Auth said.

Following a 4 to 1 vote, the bill advanced from committee.

“The public is relying on the jury to determine innocence or guilt without a question of integrity. The defendant must have the best possible notion that they are being judged by a group of his or her peers. By doing this, we are denying the public and the defendant the best possible opportunity for justice,” Auth said after casting the lone vote against the bill.