OCTOBER 17, 2018

Hillar Moore, other Louisiana District Attorneys declare support to change unanimous jury law

Three of Louisiana’s highest-profile district attorneys are lending their support to a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot that would require juries in the state to return unanimous verdicts in all felony cases – something every other state besides Oregon does.

Hillar Moore, James Stewart Sr. and Keith Stutes, the district attorneys, respectively, for East Baton Rouge, Caddo and Lafayette parishes, each told The Advocate that they have decided to back the closely watched ballot measure. They preside over three of the six busiest trial dockets among Louisiana’s 42 judicial districts, records show.


OCTOBER 1, 2018

Wrongfully convicted by non-unanimous jury, I spent 15 years in prison for crime I didn’t commit

Fair-minded people everywhere should be concerned that the 10-2 jury rule relieves prosecutors of the burden of proving their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike other states, they don’t have to convince 100 percent of jurors. If there are one or two jurors who think the defendant is innocent, they are simply outvoted.

With the 10-2 jury rule, deliberations get cut short. It’s no surprise that Louisiana leads the country in wrongful convictions per capita. At least 12 Louisianans were convicted of noncapital felonies by non-unanimous juries and later exonerated. Eleven of us were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, even though not every member of the jury was convinced of our guilt.


September 22, 2018

Upcoming Vote for Louisiana Amendment Two 

Ed Tarpley, former district attorney of Grant Parish, is working to tear down a Jim Crow-era law regarding unanimous juries. On November 6th, an amendment to the Louisiana constitution will be on the ballot to change this law. If passed, Louisiana would go from needing ten jurors approval to convict to all twelve.


September 20, 2018

Measure to require unanimous juries draws support from these Louisiana officials

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre and the police chiefs in Covington and Thibodaux are among a half-dozen current and former law enforcement officials supporting a November ballot measure asking voters if they want to require unanimous jury verdicts in Louisiana felony trials.

Those endorsements were trumpeted this past week by the Unanimous Jury Coalition, a group of mostly liberal advocacy groups that is campaigning statewide in favor of Constitutional Amendment 2, a referendum on an unusual 120-year-old rule born in the Jim Crow era.


September 20, 2018

Sen. J.P. Morrell looking to educate voters on unanimous jury decisions

State Sen. J.P. Morrell is looking to garner support while educating voters about unanimous jury decisions. Louisiana voters go to the polls Nov. 6 and one of the ballot questions will be to decide if felony convictions should be decided by a unanimous jury. The change comes as many seek to have Louisiana fall in line with the other 48 states.


September 16, 2018

guest column: Louisiana must make its jury system more just 

Please join the Jewish community along with other justice-minded Louisianians in coming to the polls this November and voting "yes" on Louisiana Amendment 2, thereby requiring unanimous juries in state felony cases. In so doing, we will all become more fit to stand in judgment ourselves, whether in front of a mirror or in the eyes of Heaven, knowing that we are continuing to seek out and build a more just society here on Earth.

The times-picayune / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 30, 2018

Unanimous jury advocates appeal to Louisiana's pro-gun conservatives in new video

Miguez, a 36-year-old lawmaker and champion handgun shooter, has earned an “A” rating from the NRA while sponsoring legislation for the gun-rights group. In the ad, he speaks to the camera while the screen cuts to him target-shooting at paper silhouettes.

“Here in Louisiana we don’t take our rights for granted. And no jury of our peers should be able to take those rights away from any of us if there’s reasonable doubt. That means their decision should be 100 percent unanimous,” Miguez says.

The advocate / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 27, 2018

Leading conservative Christian group will work for unanimous juries vote

The Louisiana Family Forum, the state's most influential conservative Christian organization, plans to distribute information pushing for the unanimous juries ballot initiative ahead of the November election. 

Gene Mills, the head of the organization, said that the Family Forum will work in an "educational capacity" with its members to promote the unanimous juries requirement that will appear on the ballot Nov. 6. Mill's group is one of the most influential and largest network of conservative churches and religious groups in the state. 

The times-picayune / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 22, 2018

Unanimous Jury Coalition hosts seminar

"The Unanimous Jury Coalition hosted an education seminar on the proposed Constitutional Amendment this evening at the City Club at River Ranch. Among those attending were several legislators, criminal defense attorneys, two former U.S. Attorneys, civil attorneys and retired law enforcement officers.

"This fall, Louisiana voters will decide whether the state should remain one of only two in the nation in which a citizen can be convicted by a non-unanimous jury. Constitutional Amendment #2 will appear on the ballot in November 2018."


august 22, 2018

State leaders and community organizations to hold public forum on unanimous jury amendment

"LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) - In 2018, Governor John Bel Edwards passed many criminal justice reform bills and amendments that will be voted on in November. This Fall, every citizen in the state will have the opportunity to vote on whether we should remain one of only two in the nation in which a citizen can be convicted by a unanimous jury. 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. Louisiana is the only state where someone can be sentenced to life without parole without a unanimous decision of a jury.

An informational public forum about the amendment is taking place Wednesday, August 22 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the City Club at River Ranch. "

klfy lafayette / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 16, 2018

Citizens Organize To Inform Community About Unanimous Jury Amendment 

"About 40 people gathered Wednesday evening at a New Orleans Labor Union hall to coordinate voter registration outreach efforts, and to educate people on a ballot initiative this fall that could change Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury rule. Ben Zucker is the co-director and co-founder of 'Step Up Louisiana', a community organization that works for economic justice. He polls the crowd, 'Who here lives in Louisiana?' Everyone raises their hands. Then Zucker says, 'Keep your hands up if you know anybody who’s ever been incarcerated for anything.' Most of the people at the community meeting keep their hands in the air; they know someone who’s been in prison. But some didn’t know that Louisiana is one of only two states - the other being Oregon - that allow a non-unanimous jury to convict someone of a felony. A ballot initiative this fall could change that - and require a unanimous jury for conviction."

wwno New Orleans public radio / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 15, 2018

Convincing the whole jury is the least prosecutors could do | Opinion

"We have an opportunity to force the state to do things right; we have an opportunity to hold Louisiana to a minimum standard adopted by 48 of the other 49 states in the country.  We have an opportunity to make sure that when Louisiana is trying to send a person to prison - even send a person to prison for life - that it doesn't get to take a major short cut along the way. 

"And that's what the law allowing non-unanimous verdicts is: a major short cut.  It's a way for the state to more expeditiously send people to prison.    A government should be made to clear a high bar to revoke a person's freedom, and we should be suspicious of any and every government that deliberately lowers that bar to make it easier to take away a person's freedom. We should be especially suspicious when the government makes it easier to send a person to prison permanently. "

THE times-picayune / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 13, 2018

john legend: It’s time for Louisiana to strip white supremacy from its constitution

"It’s been a year since I traveled to Baton Rouge to support a series of reforms to reduce the incarceration rate in Louisiana. Many of those reforms — such as the overhaul of the state’s parole system and modifications to sentencing for less serious offenses — have already proved effective. But the work is far from over. Still lingering in the state’s constitution is a 120-year-old measure put in place to suppress the rights of African Americans: non-unanimous juries. Louisiana is one of only two states — the other is Oregon — in which a person can be convicted of a felony and sent to prison without a unanimous vote of the jury. As a result, Louisiana prosecutors do not truly have the burden of proving their case 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' They only need to persuade 10 of 12 jurors to send a defendant to prison, even for life."

THE washington post / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 12, 2018

Our Views: Jeff Landry’s refusal to advance justice is beyond reasonable doubt

"As the Louisiana’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeff Landry has a duty to help advance justice for all of the state’s citizens. In opposing a change to a Louisiana legal rule designed to stack the odds against the accused, Landry has shirked that duty. This fall, voters will get a chance to champion the reform Landry is unwilling to embrace. We hope they ignore Landry’s lead and do the right thing. At issue is Louisiana’s 10-2 jury rule, which allows juries to convict defendants of serious crimes, including murder, with the approval of just 10 members of a 12-person jury. Only Louisiana and Oregon allow nonunanimous jury decisions for serious crimes. Not even Oregon permits defendants to be convicted of murder unless all the members of a jury agree."


august 6, 2018

Louisiana, Oregon should require unanimous juries for felony convictions, ABA House urges

"Only two states, Louisiana and Oregon, permit felony convictions by a less than unanimous vote. At Monday’s meeting, the American Bar Association House of Delegates voted to urge those states to end the practice, raising concerns about how well it serves justice. The resolution was moved in the House by Judy Perry Martinez of Louisiana, who is also the association’s president-elect nominee. She noted that Louisiana adopted its nonunanimous jury policy with its 1898 constitution, which was expressly designed to 'establish the supremacy of the white race.' Today, she said, one study showed that African-American defendants were 30 percent more likely to have been convicted by a nonunanimous jury. Louisiana is considering a constitutional amendment to require unanimous juries, she said, but the state’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, has publicly opposed it, saying the current situation is quicker and easier."

THE american bar association journal / READ FULL ARTICLE

august 5, 2018

Why AG Jeff Landry favors keeping this controversial law, despite GOP supporting change

"Ed Tarpley, a former district attorney for Grant Parish and a conservative Republican who has emerged as a leader in the movement to change Louisiana's law, said he thinks the attorney general should reconsider his position. 'The efficiency argument is just not valid,' Tarpley said. 'No one is making that argument in the other 48 states that require unanimous juries. The purpose of the jury is to carefully deliberate and consider the evidence used at trial. We need careful deliberations by the jury, not a quick rush to judgment.  A unanimous jury ensures that all objections by dissenting jurors must be considered. What if the lone juror is right and the majority is wrong? Under the current system, once 10 jurors vote guilty, it doesn’t matter what the objections of the dissenting jurors were. The trial is over. This is not a just or fair system.'"


august 2, 2018

opinion: time has come to change racist law

Have you heard about Louisiana’s jury rule? Unlike every other state but one, juries in Louisiana can convict criminal defendants with a less-than-unanimous verdict. Only Oregon is with us on this holdover from the Jim Crow era of primarily Southern lawmaking. In Louisiana, it takes just 10 of the 12 votes on the jury to convict someone of a felony. And that goes for murder, too, something that even Oregonians find objectionable. Only death penalty cases require a unanimous verdict in our state. This would be just another instance where Louisiana has done something incredibly backward in its legal or education system. But it’s more than that. This law is a remnant of the Jim Crowe era, a time when black Americans had some rights but when white Americans were trying to beat back the steady progress toward equality.


august 1, 2018

Commentary: Abolish Louisiana's non-unanimous jury rule that hurts innocent the most

"There’s not much bipartisan agreement these days in Baton Rouge, but one bill in the 2018 regular legislative session drew significant support from Democrats as well as Republicans: the push to abolish Louisiana’s shameful non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials. Only two states — Louisiana and Oregon — allow juries to convict with less-than-unanimous jury votes in felony trials, but Oregon requires a unanimous verdict for murder convictions. In our state, a jury can find a defendant guilty of murder by a 10-2 vote. The Louisiana rule dates from the Jim Crow era. In 1898, it was put into the state constitution after the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave black citizens equal protection rights, which included serving on juries in criminal trials. The purpose of the 10-vote rule was made clear by its proponents: It was to dilute the potential impact of black jurors."

New Orleans gambit / READ FULL ARTICLE