Assembly Bill 3070 was signed into law in January 2022 and it has since sparked controversy among legal experts, with criminal law attorney Nicole Castronovo raising concerns about its unintended consequences.
"I think this law was well-intentioned, but I don't think it was well thought out," said Nicole Castronovo.
The primary goal of AB 3070 was to address racial bias during jury selection. However, Castronovo argues the law is making it increasingly challenging to secure convictions for criminal behavior, potentially contributing to the rising crime rates experienced in the state.
"Meagan's case is exhibit A; showing the problems with this law," Castronovo said.
She's referring to the case of former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Meagan McCarthy.
On September 4, 2019, McCarthy responded to a domestic violence call, during which the suspect attacked her. Despite video evidence and multiple witness testimonies, the jury acquitted the attacker of attempted murder and assault on a police officer with a firearm, instead finding him guilty of a lesser charge—negligent discharge of a gun.
McCarthy believes AB 3070 played a significant role in the outcome of her case because the law prohibits attorneys from removing jurors displaying bias against law enforcement.
"Many of the jurors that sat on the jury that heard her case expressed a bias towards police officers, and under the new law, they could not be removed from the jury just because they expressed a bias towards police," explained Castronovo.
"Quite literally, the deck was stacked against her being the victim of a crime," Castronovo added.
AB 3070 has additional provisions that prevent the removal of jurors for being "inattentive" or providing "unintelligent" or "confused answers."
Critics argue that this raises concerns about the fairness of trials, as it may lead to less informed and biased jurors participating in the decision-making process.
The law faced opposition from numerous public safety organizations and the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. Longtime prosecutor John McKinney expressed worries about its potential consequences for criminal cases.
"If you're a prosecutor who often relies on the testimony of police officers in some capacity, sometimes as a victim, sometimes as a witness, sometimes they're an investigator, but there's almost always at least one police officer testifying in a case. How do you get a criminal conviction? When you have two or three jurors sitting on a jury who openly said they have animus and bias toward police officers? What's going to happen is you're going to get more hung juries which is a waste of taxpayer's money, or worse, you're going to get criminals being acquitted, which means victims are not going to get justice," McKinney stated.
Currently, AB 3070 applies to criminal trials, and is slated to extend to civil trials beginning in 2026.