Louisiana is one of two states, the former being Oregon, that still has a split-jury rule in their constitution. However, that could change next month, because the public will have the opportunity to vote to amend the state constitution.
What is Louisiana’s Split-Jury Rule?
A split-jury rule means a jury is not required to agree unanimously upon a judicial court case. In Louisiana, it means a person could be convicted of a noncapital felony if two jurors from the 12-person jury find them guilty. For certain defendants, this could mean life in prison without chance for parole on the word of two people.
The split-jury rule has been a formal part of Louisiana’s 14th Amendment since 1898. This rule has caused public outrage due to its racist past and the power it continues to hold over African Americans in Louisiana. In addition, criminal justice reformers argue that a split-jury verdict does not satisfy the legal definition of finding a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the Louisiana Constitution is Changed, What Would This Mean for Defendants?
If the Constitution of Louisiana is amended with the November vote, then a unanimous verdict of twelve jurors (12-0) will be required to convict a defendant of any felony case. This means a defendant will not be convicted of a felony unless the entire jury decides they are guilty.
If this amendment is passed, it will start affecting defendants with offenses on and/or after January 1, 2019. The split-jury rule will continue to apply to offenses incurred before January 1, 2019.
On the ballot, the proposition will read:
Do you support an amendment to require a unanimous jury verdict in all noncapital felony cases for offenses that are committed on or after January 1, 2019?
(Amends Article I, Section 17(A))
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