Last month, Louisiana voters amended Article 1, Section 17 of the Louisiana Constitution when they voted to abolish the split-jury rule.
Prior to the election, Louisiana was one of two states that did not require a unanimous jury verdict in noncapital criminal cases. The split-jury rule only requires 10 of 12 jurors in a 12-person jury to find a defendant guilty of a noncapital felony. If two jurors find a defendant not guilty, the defendant would still be convicted.
The split-jury rule has been a part of the Louisiana Constitution since 1898. During its century-old history, it has been widely criticized by criminal justice reform activists as the “Jim Crow Jury,” since it was established to silence African American jurors.
What Will Replace Louisiana's Split-Jury Rule?
Louisiana defendants who are charged with capital crimes must be found guilty by a unanimous jury. This was the case even before the November election. Now, a unanimous jury verdict of twelve jurors (12-0) will also be required to convict a defendant of a noncapital crime. If a jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, then the case may be tried again at a later date.
The unanimous verdict amendment will apply to offenses that are committed on or after January 1, 2019. For offenses that occurred before January 1, 2019, the split-jury rule will continue to apply.
Need a New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you have been charged with a crime in New Orleans, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Martzell, Bickford & Centola to discuss your case. After assessing your situation, we can determine whether we can help you. If we can, we could help you understand your rights under Louisiana law and discuss the best defense strategies for your case. Call us today at (504) 581-9065 or contact us online for a free consultation.