Virtual Reading Group: Twenty Million Angry Men
Today, all but one U.S. jurisdiction restricts a convicted felon’s eligibility for jury service. Are there valid, legal reasons for banishing millions of Americans from the jury process? How do felon-juror exclusion statutes impact convicted felons, jury systems, and jurisdictions that impose them? Twenty Million Angry Men provides the first full account of this pervasive yet invisible form of civic marginalization. Drawing on extensive research, James M. Binnall challenges the professed rationales for felon-juror exclusion and highlights the benefits of inclusion as they relate to criminal desistance at the individual and community levels. Ultimately, this forward-looking book argues that when it comes to serving as a juror, a history of involvement in the criminal justice system is an asset, not a liability.
This book has been selected not because FIJA has any specific position on the issue, but because of how it ties to our main issue and mission. Those who are excluded due to a felony conviction include people whose victimless offenses would have been excused if they had access to a fully informed jury as well as people who have committed crimes but have worked hard to rehabilitate themselves and can be fully integrated back into society. Moreover, while not recognizing them as a class for non-discrimination purposes, government excludes people with felony convictions as a class in part out of fear that they will disrupt the steady stream of convictions by exercising their right of jury nullification.
But does categorical exclusion make sense? Is it fair? Etc. In this three-week series, we will review Professor Binnall's research and analysis to get a better understanding of potential benefits and risks of including people with felonies on their records in jury pools, subject to challenges for cause and peremptory challenges on the same basis as everyone else, and understand how this relates to the restoration of properly functioning, fully informed juries.
Professor Binnall will be participating in some of the discussion sessions, and this event is free and open to the public. Participants will need to get a copy of the book and read the first three chapters before the first session.