A Senate committee advanced an expense proposing a constitutional modification that would need juries to reach consentaneous decisions in all felony cases. SB243 strikes through a single word in the state constitution to need all members of a 12-person jury vote to found guilty an accused in a felony case. Louisiana and Oregon are the only states that enable non-unanimous decisions in jury trials. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans and the author of the costs, stated Louisiana’s status as an outlier puts it at risk of being on the incorrect end of a judgment by the United States Supreme Court. If the high court were to state the present law unconstitutional, it might apply that judgment retroactively, triggering “turmoil” in the Louisiana justice system, Morrell stated. The committee voted 5-1 to advance the proposal to the Senate floor. The Louisiana District Attorneys Association opposed the expense, and Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Baton Rouge, cast the only no vote. The Supreme Court ruled in 1972 in Apodaca v. Oregon that non-unanimous jury decisions are constitutional.
Ed Tarpley, an advocate of the expense and a previous district lawyer for Grant Parish, framed the issue as a constitutional one. ” This has to do with liberty,” Tarpley stated. “If you love the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then you need to support the senator’s costs.” Tarpley affirmed that the law permitting non-unanimous decisions, which was validated in the state in 1898, was a racially-motivated antique of the post-Reconstruction period and a departure from the centuries-old legal custom needing unanimity in jury trials. The policy was last upgraded in the 1974 Constitutional Convention. State legislators embraced the existing jury requirements needing at least a 10-2 vote. That was a one vote boost over the 1898 requirement, Tarpley stated. ” When you take a look at the system we have in Louisiana, it’s legal schizophrenia,” Tarpley stated. “Because for a six-person jury, the decision needs to be consentaneous. For a capital case, the decision needs to be consentaneous. But in the middle, for other felony, you can be founded guilty by a 10-out-of-12 vote.”. Christie Smith, of the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, spoke in assistance of the proposal and highlighted information from a 1997 research study carried out by the Public Law Research Institute.
” The information highly recommends that when a jury is needed to reach a consentaneous decision, the jury focuses less on getting to a decision and more on the truths themselves, which certainly is the supreme goal of a trial,” Smith stated. Mentioning the very same research study, he included that needing unanimity only increased the typical length of jury considerations to about 2 hours, up from 73 minutes. Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana Association of District Attorneys, opposed advancing the costs, pointing out the absence of current information on the result of needing unanimity. He proposed delaying the costs to permit more research study of the issue by the Louisiana State Law Institute. He stated that needing unanimity would increase the variety of hung juries and increase state costs on retrials. ” In today’s society getting 10 from 12, in any group, to settle on any subject is an extraordinary job,” Adams stated. “In today’s Twitter, social media society, everyone remains in their own little corner. The reality is, more so than before, people take their programs into the courtroom, and I think you’re welcoming jury nullification by needing consentaneous decisions.”.
Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans and a co-author of the costs, differed with Adams’ demand.
” I have no idea that punting this to another research study is always the response, provided the length of time we have been handling this,” Carter stated. In his closing remarks, Morrell asked: “How do you have ‘beyond an affordable doubt’ when 2 people have doubt?”. To work, the proposed modification would need to pass both homes of the Legislature by a two-thirds vote. It would then need an easy bulk in a state-wide referendum.