Louisiana Takes Aim at Jim Crow-Era Jury Law

(From AP News)

Louisiana is one of only two states in the country allowing a non-unanimous jury to convict a defendant of a felony, and a Louisiana lawmaker says it is time for the practice to end.

Sen. J.P. Morrell says the unusual rule is a remnant of the Jim Crow era, stemming from a constitutional convention in 1898 and longstanding efforts to maintain white supremacy after the Civil War. And he wants a change.

The New Orleans Democrat has proposed a constitutional amendment to require all 12 jurors in felony cases to agree on a verdict. The measure is gaining steam in the state Capitol.

Serious felony trials in Louisiana, including some murder cases, can be resolved when 10 out of 12 jurors agree on a person’s guilt. Even Oregon, the only other state to allow split verdicts in felony cases, requires a unanimous verdict in murder cases. Morrell says the non-unanimous jury policy was instituted in order to minimize the voice of African-American jurors.

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