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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