Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Unanimous Jury Verdicts

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Unanimous Jury Verdicts

On April 20, 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s right to a fair trial requires a unanimous vote in order to convict a criminal defendant of a serious offense. Previously, 48 states allowed an 11-1 verdict to prevent a person’s conviction, meaning a single juror’s “not guilty” verdict was enough to free someone from a criminal charge. But in Louisiana and Oregon, a 10-2 verdict was required, lowering the chances for a criminal defendant to avoid imprisonment.

Ramos v. Louisiana: Juror Verdicts Must Be United in Order to Convict

In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder in a 10-2 jury decision and was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a result. However, Ramos argued that this decision violated his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. After the US Supreme Court reviewed his case, 6 out of 9 justices agreed that the Sixth Amendment requires a unanimous verdict.

This means that, moving forward, those who were convicted due to a split decision have the chance to receive a new trialas long as they haven’t used all their appeals. Now, those convicted of felonies in Oregon and Louisiana due to a nonunanimous jury verdict have a second chance at freedom.

Historical Implications of Nonunanimous Verdicts

Nonunanimous jury verdicts were legalized during the Jim Crow era and were intended to disenfranchise African Americans and silence their voices. Prior to this ruling, Louisiana’s nonunanimous conviction process resulted in 30% more black defendants than white defendants being convicted by a split jury. Now that unanimous jury verdicts are required, more defendants can have a fairer trial.

Some of the US Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of unanimous jury verdicts shared their opinions:

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh: “Then and now, non-unanimous juries can silence the voices and negate the votes of black jurors, especially in cases with black defendants or black victims, and only one or two black jurors.”

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “ … the racially biased origins of the Louisiana and Oregon laws uniquely matter here.”

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch: “The Constitution’s text and structure clearly indicate that the Sixth Amendment term ‘trial by an impartial jury’ carries with it some meaning about the content and requirements of a jury trial. One such requirement is that a jury must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict.”

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Now that split votes are unconstitutional, more criminal defendants have a chance at freedom in the newly enhanced justice system. If you are awaiting trial in Louisiana, you can feel more confident knowing that your Sixth Amendment rights are finally being honored. If your loved one was recently convicted of a crime due to a split jury decision and hasn’t exhausted all their appeals, they now have a second chance at freedom, and our passionate lawyer is determined to help them fight for it. We will work tirelessly to protect your freedom and best interests no matter what it takes.

Schedule your FREE consultation online or call (504) 267-1157!