On April 20, 2020, the U.S. Supreme ruled that the United States Constitution bans non-unanimous jury verdicts in cases involving serious crimes. There are only two states, Louisiana and Oregon, that have allowed such verdicts in recent years. Both states had permitted jury votes of 10-2, for conviction, instead of a unanimous verdict, which is required in the vast number of states, and the federal system. This case involved a Louisiana man, Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted in 2016, of killing a woman in New Orleans, by a jury vote of 10-2. Louisiana has since amended its State Constitution to prohibit non-unanimous verdicts for crimes committed after 2018. This leaves Oregon as the last state that permits non-unanimous verdicts in criminal cases. The high court noted that the Sixth Amendment, which forbids non-unanimous verdicts in federal criminal trials, should apply to state criminal trials.This is good news for defendants who were convicted in Oregon and Louisiana state courts, who now may be able to amount to post-conviction challenges in their cases. In Oregon alone, there are reportedly more than 1,000 defendants with pending appeals who may be able to challenge their convictions on this basis. The bottom line is that the U.S. Supreme Court finally recognized what criminal defendants and their lawyers have known for a long time, that such laws are deeply rooted in racism. Congratulations to the Supreme Court, and welcome to the 21st century!
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