Friday, April 24, 2020

Supreme Court Rules Jury Convictions in State Court Must Be Unanimous Like Federal Court

The Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana Jury’s Conviction of a Defendant because the Decision was Not Unanimous. The Court ruled 6-3 in Ramos v. Louisiana that "if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court."

The Six Justices in the Majority were: Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. The Three Dissenting Justices were: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan.

In 2016, a Louisiana Jury Voted 10-2 to Convict Evangelisto Ramos of Murder and Sentenced him to Life Imprisonment. Ramos Appealed his Conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his Conviction by a Non-Unanimous Jury Violated his Federal Constitutional Rights. The Court of Appeal Affirmed Ramos' Conviction and Sentence.

In its Decision, the Supreme Court said the Enactment of Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Oregon and Louisiana was a Product of Racism. Writing for the Court, Gorsuch said, “Courts in both Louisiana and Oregon have frankly acknowledged that race was a motivating factor in the adoption of their States’ respective non-unanimity rules."

In his Dissenting Opinion, Alito argued Against overturning Precedent established in Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), in which the Court said the Sixth Amendment Required Unanimous Juries to Convict Persons in Federal Criminal Trials but that the Fourteenth Amendment did Not Extend the Requirement of Unanimous Juries to State Criminal Trials. Alito said Overruling Apodaca would cause “a potential tsunami of litigation.”

The Court’s Majority Acknowledged the Potential Number of Cases challenging Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts but said it did Not Justify withholding the Sixth Amendment’s Protections from State Criminal Trials.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only Two States that allow Non-Unanimous Verdicts.

Louisiana allowed Criminal Convictions by at least a 10-2 Jury Vote after a State Constitutional Convention instituted the Requirement in 1973. This was Changed in 2018 when Voters Approved Amendment 2, a Legislatively referred Constitutional Amendment that Requires the Unanimous Agreement of the Jurors to Convict People Charged with Felonies.

Oregon has allowed Non-Unanimous Verdicts in All Criminal Trials, except for First-Degree Murder, since Voters Approved a Legislatively referred Constitutional Amendment Authorizing it in 1932.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

No comments: