A new rule that non-unanimous convictions cannot be used by the state of Louisiana will not apply retroactively, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
Louisiana voters approved a state constitutional amendment ending the practice of convicting people without unanimous rulings in 2018, effective for crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2019. Only two states recognized non-unanimous convictions at that time.
Louisiana’s highest court ruled Oct. 21 that prohibitions against non-unanimous jury convictions do not have to apply retroactively. The ruling was in response to the case of Reginald Reddick, who was convicted of murder by a 10-2 vote in 1997. But an advocacy group estimated the decision affects more than 1,500 prisoners.
In 2020, non-unanimous verdicts were also declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the next year, in Ramos vs. Louisiana, the Supreme Court said that
its invalidation of non-unanimous verdicts applies only to future cases and to cases in which a defendant’s appellate options had not been completely exhausted.
Louisiana State Supreme Court Justice Scott Crichton wrote in the ruling that the use of non-unanimous jury votes dates back to the late 1800s and was believed to be a way to discourage African American participation in juries.
However, Justice Crichton’s stated “there are racially neutral, legitimate, and rational arguments justifying a non-unanimous jury rule.”
Justice James Genovese offered a partial dissent, writing, “I find that a new trial should be ordered in cases where an African American defendant can prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that an African American juror dissented from the majority voting to convict the defendant of the charged crime.”
The Promise of Justice Initiative wrote in a statement on the ruling, “This is a loss for every Louisianan. Our courts must protect our fundamental rights and freedoms.