Supreme Court agrees to hear case on restoration of rights

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit aimed at preventing more than 200,000 felons from voting.

The governor signed an executive order back in April restoring the voting rights of about 206,000 felons who have completed their sentences. Republicans have filed a lawsuit to block the governor’s order, calling blanket restoration unconstitutional.

State prosecutors are also raising concerns over the governor’s executive order. They’re worried convicted felons could sit on juries and decide whether someone charged with a crime is guilty.

Three years ago state trooper Junius Walker was shot and killed. Attorneys for Russell Brown, the man accused of his murder, have filed a suit asking felons whose rights were recently restored under Governor McAuliffe’s executive order, be re-examined as potential jurors for Brown’s trial.

“It’s just kind of like a fishing expedition in a bath tub, you’re not going to find any fish,” said Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s attorney Ann Baserkvill.

Baskervill who argued against that motion Tuesday says the request is unnecessary. She and some prosecutors across the state are also concerned the governor’s blanket restoration for felons may allow some who shouldn’t be on juries to slip through the cracks and be able to serve. She says there’s no way for them to check.

“We don’t have the resources to check into that, I doubt that many jurisdictions do,” said Baskervill.

And Baskervill says no prosecutors have gotten access to those whose rights have been restored. She says it’s made it harder for them to vet potential jurors.

“No jurisdiction knows how many or who in our jurisdiction has been restored. It has nothing to do with politics or partisanship,” said Baskervill.

“I think Virginia’s prosecutors are going to be able to deal with this so i do think that it’s a bit of a political issue that’s being raised to score some political points,” said defense attorney Russ Stone.

Stone says questionnaires are already sent out to jurors asking if they’re a convicted felon.

“All of these things can be pursued in the course of a jury trial and that’s why I don’t think that it’s really an issue,” said Stone.

He says the selection process should take care of any concerns or problems.

“If you come up to a situation where you find out a juror has lied about it, then you can either strike that juror or have that juror struck by the judge,” said Stone.

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