Court: Louisiana unanimous jury requirement not retroactive

Oct 21, 2022, 10:36 AM | Updated: 10:59 am

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Prohibitions against nonunanimous jury convictions — outlawed by Louisiana voters in 2018 and, later, by the U.S. Supreme Court — do not have to apply retroactively to earlier convictions, Louisiana’s highest court ruled Friday.

The ruling came in the case of Reginald Reddick, convicted of murder by a 10-2 jury vote in 1997.

In 2018, Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting nonunanimous verdicts in trials for crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2019. At the time, Louisiana was one of only two states allowing such verdicts.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that nonunanimous verdicts were unconstitutional, broadening the effect of the state constitutional amendment.

But in 2021, the Supreme Court made clear that the decision against non-unanimous verdicts applied only to future cases and cases in which the defendants’ appeals had not been exhausted.

In arguments before the state Supreme Court in May, Jamila Johnson, arguing for Reddick, said the practice of allowing nonunanimous convictions is rooted in late 19th century Jim Crow laws that made for easier convictions of Black defendants.

And she said the racial unfairness of the case made the problems with the law “structural in nature,” so it did not matter if the defendant in a particular case was white or that the appellate record is now unclear on the race of the jury members who voted to acquit her client in 1997.

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Court: Louisiana unanimous jury requirement not retroactive