LOUISIANA NON-UNANIMOUS JURY VERDICTS

August 20, 2018 Contact: Christian King

For Immediate Release swblsa.communications@nblsa.org

Louisiana is one of only two states that allow felony convictions without unanimous agreement from the jurors. In November, Louisiana voters will have the opportunity to vote to pass an amendment to the Louisiana Constitution that would require unanimous jury decisions in felony convictions.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy once stated that, “A rule which insists on unanimity furthers the deliberative process by requiring the minority view to be examined and, if possible, accepted or rejected by the entire jury.” Louisiana’s Constitution currently allows ten members of a twelve-person jury to render a verdict in a case, in which the punishment is necessary confinement at hard labor. In America, it is the right of all groups within our society to participate in system of criminal justice. The right to be tried by a jury drawn from a cross-section of one’s community is undermined when the opinions and views of jurors in the minority are allowed to be ignored. Additionally, allowing the voices of minorities to be excluded from jury decisions encourages a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system, among the state’s minority communities.

Louisiana’s Constitutional provision allowing for felony convictions without unanimous agreement from the jurors, originated as a means to discount the votes of African Americans after the United States Constitution mandated that African Americans be allowed to serve on juries. Although the law was rooted in racism and oppression, now more than ever, it has become clear that the provision allowing for felony convictions without unanimous agreement from the jurors has been depriving all Louisianans of the full right to trial by jury since its inception. Martin Luther King once famously noted, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

SWBLSA supports the movement to change Louisiana’s Constitutional provision allowing for felony convictions without unanimous agreement from the jurors, and is honored to do its part in raising awareness.

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Founded in 1968, the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) is a national organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of Black and minority law students to effectuate change in the legal community. The South-West Black Law Students Association (SWBLSA) is a sub-region of NBLSA encompassing Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. As one of the largest student-run organizations of its kind in the United States for Black law students, NBLSA has thousands of members across America and is also comprised of more than 200 chapters and affiliates from six countries, including the Bahamas, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Christian King

SWBLSA Attorney General

swblsa.ag@nblsa.org

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Symone White

SWBLSA Chair

swblsa@nblsa.org

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