Ban on non-unanimous jury verdicts will not be retroactively enforced, La. Supreme Court rules
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Friday (Oct. 21) that over 1,500 people who were convicted by split juries will not be retroactively entitled to new trials.
Justice Piper Griffin of New Orleans, the court’s only Black member, was the lone dissenting vote as the court denied a new trial to Reginald Reddick, who was convicted of murder by a 10-2 jury vote in 1997.
Until recently, Louisiana was one of only two states that did not require the unanimous vote of a jury to convict, a vestige of Jim Crow-era laws. In 2018, Louisiana residents voted to end the practice and in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court found non-unanimous jury verdicts unconstitutional. In its Ramos decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said unanimous jury verdicts are constitutional going forward, but they left the question of whether to apply the same standard retroactively up to Louisiana and Oregon.
Friday’s ruling ensures those split jury verdicts will stand for inmates who have exhausted the appeals process.
“Granting post-conviction relief to everyone convicted by a nonunanimous jury fails to address the heart of the inquiry at trial–whether they committed the crime,” wrote Chief Justice John L. Weimer. “Jury verdicts, even unanimous ones, are not unassailable and the judicial system already provides a number of checks aimed at identifying and correcting potential errors. Notably there are numerous opportunities for relief for factually innocent defendants who are nonetheless wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit. These safeguards are in place to ensure only the guilty serve a sentence. Simply stated, retroactively applying the rule of Ramos would randomly vacate the convictions of too many whose guilt is undeniable and would not serve the interests of justice. A nonunanimous jury verdict should not serve as an escape from punishment for the guilty.”
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