Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Unanimous Jury Verdicts

If you don't live in Oregon or Louisiana, you probably think juries have to come to a unanimous decision about guilt or innocence.  Both states have long allowed 10-2 or 9-3 to reach a verdict.  Why?  Ramos v. Louisiana (2020) was just decided by the Supreme Court ruling that the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a jury trial includes that verdicts must be unanimous.  Why do these states have a different rule?  From Justice Gorsuch's opinion:
Louisiana first endorsed nonunanimous verdicts for serious crimes at a constitutional convention in 1898. According to one committee chairman, the avowed purpose of that convention was to “establish the supremacy of the white race,” and the resulting document included many of the trappings of the Jim Crow era: a poll tax, a combined literacy and property ownership test, and a grandfather clause that in practice exempted white residents from the most onerous of these requirements.
If one of those uppity black jurors refused to vote for conviction or for acquittal, no problem.  Oregon's reason dates from the KKK dominance period in the 1930s, and for the same reason.  This decision concerns some 2nd Amendment lawyers because of how it overturned existing bad precedents on this matter.

If you know the racist history of gun control Gorsuch's opinion is very good news and even some of the liberal justices agreed with him.  Best of all:
Really, no one has found a way to make sense of it. In later cases, this Court has labeled Apodaca an “exception,” “unusual,” and in any event “not an endorsement” of Justice Powell’s view of incorporation.

And the footnote is to McDonald v. Chicago (2010), which freaked out the left by saying states must recognize the 2nd Amendment as limiting state power.


  1. Exceptionally bad explanation that ignores Lousiana's law is not based on English law but on the Napoleonic code. SCOTUS ignores precedent and makes law, hence law is what it says and ergo law is whatever it wants it to be at that moment. Law is a matter of whim. No wonder Shakespeare said first let us hang all the lawyers.

  2. Napoleonic code had non-unanimous juries?

    Bad precedents are often overturned: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896); U.S. v. Miller (1939).