Constitutional amendment to require unanimous jury verdicts in felony cases moves closer to vote

April 25, 2018 - 8:36 pm


The House Criminal Justice Committee approves a constitutional amendment that calls for all 12 members of a jury to agree on  guilt or innocence in a felony case. Current law requires 10.
The debate digressed to a racial issue when an opponent, Calcasieu D.A. John DeRosier, brushed off the notion that unanimous juries were racially driven.

“I’ve heard a lot about this system being adopted as a result of a vestige of slavery. I have no reason to doubt that. I’m not proud of that, that’s the way it started. But it is what it is,” DeRosier said
Committee member Ted James of Baton Rouge fired back at DeRosier.

“And to admit that started in slavery and say ’it is what it is’?  I hope the people of your parish are listening. If they aren’t… I’m going to make sure they are know what you said today. I’m utterly offended,” Derosier said.

The bill’s author, New Orleans Senator J.P. Morrell, cited 180 year old documents to make his point why convictions in felony should be unanimous.

“The non-unanimous jury was part of a process in our official journal, where it was said, ’The mission of this convention was to establish the supremacy of the white race in the state.’ That’s in the official journal,” Morrell said.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states without unanimous jury requirements.  The Senate has already approved the proposal and it will need a two-thirds vote on the House floor.

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