Bipartisan coalition works to amend Jim Crow law

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 19:39:21-04

A bipartisan coalition is launching a media campaign with the mission of reversing a Jim Crow Era law. 

As it stands, a person can be convicted of a felony without a unanimous jury.  Members of the coalition say this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the system fair. 

Louisiana is one of only two states to allow people charged with felonies to be convicted with ten of twelve jurors. 

"There’s no question about the fact that the purpose of the law was to make it easier to convict African Americans. The newly freed slaves had only enjoyed the rights of citizenship for fifteen years at that point and so what this law did was to deprive the newly freed slaves of their rights of citizenship," explained attorney and former Grant Parish District Attorney, Ed Tarpley. 

The bill to change the law was written by a Democratic senator from New Orleans who recruited Ed Tarpley, a conservative, to argue for the constitutional amendment. 

"If you love the Constitution, and you love the Bill of Rights, then you have to love Senate Bill 243. Because what we are seeking to do with this legislation is to restore the full protection of the right to trial by jury in Louisiana," said Tarpley during a testimony in front of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in late April. 

Voters should expect to see advertisements and speeches to vote for Amendment 2 in the coming months. 

"We have a broad spectrum of groups. I mean everywhere on the political spectrum: liberal to conservative, republican to democrat," said Tarpley.

The coalition includes the Louisiana Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, the Louisiana Family Forum, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, and Voice of the Experienced.

If passed, the law will not apply to cases that took place before January 2019.