‘They kept calling me:’ Convicted felons say jury summons led them to believe they could vote

Two felons recently arrested for allegedly illegally voting believed their rights had been restored

Under Florida law, felons are not allowed to sit on a jury unless their rights have been restored. The two people interviewed by News 6 said they took getting a jury summons as a sign that they were in the clear.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Governor Ron DeSantis announced 3 weeks ago that 20 people were arrested for illegal voting in the 2020 election. But we have since learned most, if not all, of those people thought they were eligible to vote.

One of the reasons some thought they were eligible is because they received a jury summons in the mail.

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Under Florida law, felons are not allowed to sit on a jury unless their rights have been restored.

The two people interviewed by News 6 said they took getting a jury summons as a sign that they were in the clear.

In the ninth judicial circuit, which is Orange and Osceola Counties, jury summonses are handled by court administration.

News 6 went to Chief Judge Lisa Munyon to ask why this may be happening.

“It’s a pretty complicated system if you’re not familiar with it,” Munyon said. “So, I can understand how people can be confused.”

Peter Washington

Peter Washington, 59, was one of 20 people investigated by the Office of Election Crimes and Security, then later arrested for voting in the 2020 election.

All 20 were convicted felons.

“They kept calling me for court duty,” Washington told News 6.

Washington says there were a series of events that led him to believe his rights had been restored, including getting a jury summons in the mail.

“They called me for court duty two to three times, but that’s what made me think I was eligible to vote, or my rights had been reinstated because you know you can’t be on a jury duty unless your rights have been reinstated,” Washington said.

The last summons happened more than three years ago, around the time Amendment 4 was passed, Washington said.

Amendment 4 automatically restores the rights of some convicted felons after completing their sentence and paying court fees, unless they are charged with a violent crime or sex crime.

Jury records are only retained for three years, according to court support staff, so there’s no record of Washington receiving a summons.

But court records show two other convicted felons received summonses and were recently arrested for voting in the 2020 election like Washington was.

Michelle Stribling received a jury summons in July of 2021, and Jerry Lee Foster received two jury summonses, in September of 2019 and February of 2021, according to court records.

Potential Jurors

The initial list of potential jurors comes from driver license and identification card rolls, Munyon said

Every quarter the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles “will send a list to the clerk (of the court) that has potential jurors for summonses and the court forwards that list to us,” Munyon said.

The list is supposed to be cross-referenced with a state criminal history database, Munyon said.

“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement by statute is supposed to look through those lists and give the clerk information to purge them,” Munyon said.

News 6 asked if Munyon ever gets any notification from FDLE that checks have actually been done.

“No. Not that I know of,” Munyon said. “As far as I know, and I have tried to check on the process since I’ve been chief judge, but it is a process that’s very difficult to get down to the bottom of.”

“Why is that?” we asked.

“You’d have to ask FDLE. I don’t know,” Munyon said.


Florida statute 40.022 section 4 states:

“The department of law enforcement will search its databases and return an automated file of matching records that would assist the clerk in evaluating whether a member of the jury pool should be disqualified.”

“I know that process isn’t 100%,” Munyon said. “So every time we get a panel in every day, our clerk staff asks all of the disqualification questions: Are you a convicted felon? Are you a judge? Are you the governor?” Munyon said.

“Do you think more could be done to prevent convicted felons from getting jury summons?” News 6 asked.

“I think a system could be put in place that would cross-reference FDLE’s database of convicted felons with driver license roles. It would require legislation and it would require resources from the legislature,” Munyon said.

News 6 contacted FDLE.

A spokesperson confirmed what the judge said via email.

“Clerks electronically submit names and demographic data to be searched against the Florida Computerized Criminal History Database for possible matches to a Florida criminal history record,” according to the email.

FDLE maintains Florida’s Sex Offender Database, which are all convicted felons, but potential jurors’ names are not run through that database.

News 6 asked why, and we still have not heard back.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.