Louisiana votes to end non-unanimous jury verdicts, only Oregon remains

U.S. NEWS (AP) — A constitutional amendment to end non-unanimous jury verdicts in Louisiana was approved Tuesday by the state’s voters — a victory for a rare alliance of conservative and progressive organizations that got behind the measure to end a practice with roots in post-Civil War racism.

The amendment takes effect Jan. 1 and will leave Oregon as the only other state allowing split verdicts. It reverses a Jim Crow-era practice that made it easier to imprison non-whites by allowing as few as 10 members of a 12-member jury to convict defendants in felony cases not involving death sentences.

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Louisiana might finally get rid of its racist jury system

Louisiana State Penitentiary

SLATE — On Nov. 6, Louisiana voters will decide the fate of a Jim Crow–era law that allows juries to convict people on felony charges with only 10 of 12 jurors agreeing on a guilty verdict. Roughly 2,000 inmates are currently serving life sentences as a result of nonunanimous verdicts in Louisiana.

The split-jury rule was adopted in 1898 in response to the equal protection rights awarded to black citizens by the 14th Amendment. To minimize the influence of black jurors, lawmakers made the change. At the constitutional convention where the law was instituted, its proponents made their motivation abundantly clear—white supremacy.

“Our mission was, in the first place, to establish the supremacy of the white race in this state to the extent to which it could be legally and constitutionally done,” reads an excerpt from the convention’s Official Journal of Proceedings.

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John Legend wants Louisiana to remove ‘white supremacy’ from its constitution

CNN reports, that as part of his continued work in criminal justice reform, John Legend is calling on Louisiana to change its constitution.

In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post Tuesday headlined “It’s time for Louisiana to strip white supremacy from its constitution,” the singer writes about the state’s continued acceptance of non-unanimous jury decisions, which he calls “a 120-year-old measure put in place to suppress the rights of African Americans.”