The Unanimous Jury Coalition hosted an education seminar on the proposed Constitutional Amendment this evening at the City Club at River Ranch.
Among those attending were several legislators, criminal defense attorneys, two former U.S. Attorneys, civil attorneys and retired law enforcement officers.
This fall, Louisiana voters will decide whether the state should remain one of only two in the nation in which a citizen can be convicted by a non-unanimous jury. Constitutional Amendment #2 will appear on the ballot in November 2018.
In forty-eight other states and in federal courts across the country, a conviction requires a unanimous vote; in other words all jurors must agree on whether a prosecutor has met the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to the coalition’s website, the trial by jury has been described as unanimous for hundreds of years.
Here’s Justice Antonin Scalia, quoting Sir William Blackstone (a well-known 18th century English jurist):
“The most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy, or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbours and equals.”
Louisiana is the only state where someone can be sentenced to life without parole without a unanimous decision of a jury; that means that two people can vote not guilty and a person still can be convicted of murder.
More than forty percent of all those who have been recently exonerated were (mistakenly) found guilty by non-unanimous juries, according to the coalition’s website.