Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Protest of Bans for Felons

8. November 2005 • Jason Voss
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During a recent keynote address in Battle Creek, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas called for the state’s Black population, and working and poor people of all colors, to surround the state capitol building on May 1 to protest laws that bar felons from living in public housing, getting a college education, serving on juries, and voting, among other deprivations. She designated May 1 as the target date because it is Law Day.

Last year, Judge Thomas ordered a study of the race and ethnicity of Wayne County juries, noting that Black jurors appeared to be deliberately excluded from jury panels. The study showed that only 27 percent of Wayne County jurors are Black, in a county that is 42 percent Black, and in a city, Detroit, that is at least 81 percent Black.

One of the factors contributing to the exclusion, said Thomas, was a state law enacted in 2003 that barred all convicted “felons” from serving on juries. Previously, only those “under current sentence” for a felony were barred.

In response to Thomas’ order, and to allegations that other Black Wayne County judges were seeking to seat more Black jurors through the voir dire process, the State Supreme Court has proposed a rule that would bar efforts to balance juries to more adequately represent the population.

(from Black Box Radio local headlines 11-08-2005)

  1. Voting??? Unlike some other states, Michigan does not bar people with criminal records from voting.

    The only restriction is that people serving sentences in prison or jail cannot receive absentee ballots.

    I think carefully controlled measures to balance the incoming jury pool could be effective and certainly defensible. But I can’t say I’m surprised that our right wing Republican legislature likes having juries be considerably older and whiter and more affluent than the overall adult population.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 9 '05 - 12:45AM    #