Wednesday, April 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Non-citizen jurors? It’s a bad idea

TomEliasW

By
From page A10 | July 12, 2013 | Leave Comment

It’s one thing to give undocumented immigrants an opportunity — however limited and lengthy and expensive — to gain American citizenship if they’ve lived and worked in this country for a long time while contributing and without committing any criminal offenses.

Driver’s licenses for the undocumented also make some sense, especially since many law enforcement officials say that could compel those here illegally to obey laws requiring car insurance, thus cutting down the expenses of other drivers who may be involved in accidents with them.

But one bill that has passed the state Assembly and is now in the Senate simply makes no sense: Called AB 1401, this proposal would allow non-citizens to serve on juries in California’s state courts.

Never mind the long-standing American tradition of a having a jury of the defendant’s peers determine whether criminal charges are valid. That’s merely a custom, not a constitutional right.

The Sixth Amendment says only that every American is entitled to an “impartial jury” and that its members should live in the state or district where the crime under consideration took place. Courts have interpreted this to mean jury pools should contain a cross-section of the population of the area, in terms of gender, race and national origin.

No one yet has specified that jurors must be U.S. citizens, perhaps because at the time the Bill of Rights — the Constitution’s first 10 amendments — was written in 1789 and finally ratified by the states two years later, it could be difficult to determine who was a U.S. citizen. Birth and immigration record-keeping was far from comprehensive.

But proving citizenship today is far easier, via birth certificates, passports and naturalization papers. So it’s fair to figure that if the Bill of Rights were being written today, it would specify that all jurors be citizens.

But the door to non-citizen jurors was left open a crack, and some Democratic state legislators now want to walk through it.

Juries, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski of Fremont told a reporter the other day, “should reflect our community and our community is always changing. It’s time for California to be a leader on this.”

He said jury service for legal residents who are not citizens also would help ensure an adequate pool of jurors and help immigrants integrate into American society.

But suppose you are suing a used car dealer for selling you a vehicle with faulty brakes that caused an accident. Would you want a juror who’s a citizen of a county where such lawsuits are not possible? If you’ve been raped, would you want your accused assailant judged by a man from a country where women have few rights and are penalized for extramarital sex, even if it was forced on them?

Wieckowski is correct that immigrants often need time and training to adjust to American life and values. Should the guilt or innocence of any American be determined even in part by persons not completely familiar with this country’s values and customs?

In fact, customs vary by locale in a state as large as California, and the framers of the Constitution, who also wrote the Bill of Rights, knew that would be inevitable. It’s why they said juries must be local residents, not imports from faraway places.

There’s also the question of dilution of citizenship. There are already proposals (none has yet become law) to allow non-citizens to vote in some local elections. Non-citizens who have caused no trouble can qualify for easy passage through customs and immigration checkpoints via the federal Trusted Traveler and Global Entry programs.

If citizenship is no longer required for many of the duties and privileges it once conferred, does it lose some of its value? Is there any advantage to being a citizen over merely carrying a green card?

And especially, when the fate, freedom and fortune of any American citizen is at stake, why should anyone but another citizen help decide?

Condemning a person to prison or taking money from either a citizen or a corporation is a serious matter, not something for anyone with limited knowledge of either the English language or American ways to decide.

The bottom line: Like many other bills proposed in the Legislature and then disposed of, this is a terrible idea and ought to be consigned to the lawmaking trash can, the sooner the better.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Council votes to look at reducing water bills

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    New mosaic mural reflects Peña family history

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    UC Davis biodigester hungers for food scraps

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Penalty decision looms in Winters homicide case

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Hay bales burn east of Davis

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Woman killed by train ID’d

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Pro-Russian insurgents hold journalist captive

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Davis Arts Center: See ceramics, join the Big Day of Giving

    By Erie Vitiello | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Fire damages Woodland home

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

    Register to vote by May 19

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Sign up for enviro organizations during Earth Week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Bible fun featured at Parents’ Night Out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Davis businesswoman presides over conference

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Birch Lane sells garden plants, veggies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Team Blend hosts fundraiser for Nicaragua project

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

    Fundraiser benefits Oakley campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fire crews gather for joint training

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Odd Fellows host culinary benefit for nonprofit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    400 bikes go up for bids at UCD auction

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Sunder hosts campaign event for kids

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Church hosts discussion of mental health needs, services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    UCD to host premiere of autism documentary

    By Cory Golden | From Page: A4

    UFC hears from two local historians

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    UCD professor to talk about new book

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Fly Fishers talk to focus on healthy streams, rivers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Train to become a weather spotter

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Learn survival skills at Cache Creek Preserve

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Veterans, internees may receive overdue diplomas

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    UC Davis conference showcases undergraduate research

    By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Conservation District celebrates its stewardship efforts

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Slow Food tour showcases area’s young farmers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Forum

    Even a safe house needs boundaries

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    I support Sunder for board

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Will anyone notice?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    My votes reflect city values

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    A plea on the Bard’s birthday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    DHS thunders back to win an epic DVC volleyball match

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DHS/Franklin I goes to the Blue Devil softballers

    By Chris Saur | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Davis gets to Grant ace and rolls in DVC crucial

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Walchli is under par in another Devil victory

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Seniors send Blue Devil girls past Broncos in a lacrosse rout

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
     
    Baseball roundup: Rangers rally to beat A’s in the ninth

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    Sharks go up 3-0 with OT win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    Field to fork: El Macero’s chef offers spring tastes

    By Dan Kennedy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Arts

     
    Five Three Oh! featured at April Performers’ Circle

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Celebrate spring at I-House on Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Music, wine flow at Fourth Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Biscuits ‘n Honey will play at winery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Catharine ‘Kay’ Lathrop

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6