In forty-eight other states and in federal courts across the country, a conviction requires a unanimous vote – all jurors must agree on whether a prosecutor has met the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For hundreds of years, dating back to common law before the constitution, the trial by jury has been repeatedly described by Justice Antonin Scalia, quoting Sir William Blackstone, as:
“the most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy, or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbours and equals.”
Louisiana is the only state where someone can be sentenced to life without parole without a unanimous decision of a jury. Non-unanimous juries allow conviction even where two citizens have reasonable doubts about the evidence. They are, as a result, unreliable. More than forty percent of all those who have been recently exonerated were (mistakenly) found guilty by non-unanimous juries.