Posted on August 15, 2018

It’s Time for Louisiana to Strip White Supremacy from Its Constitution

John Legend, Washington Post, August 13, 2018


Louisiana is one of only two states — the other is Oregon — in which a person can be convicted of a felony and sent to prison without a unanimous vote of the jury. As a result, Louisiana prosecutors do not truly have the burden of proving their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They only need to persuade 10 of 12 jurors to send a defendant to prison, even for life.

The result? A state justice system in which felony trials are held without the full participation of African Americans.

Here’s why: During Louisiana’s all-white constitutional convention in 1898, delegates passed a series of measures specifically designed to “perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana.” Non-unanimous juries were one of those measures, and the intent was clear: If the federal Constitution required that African Americans be allowed to serve on juries, the state constitution would make sure that minority votes could be discounted.

In a review of nearly 1,000 felony trials in the state, the New Orleans Advocate determined that 40 percent of jury verdicts were not unanimous. They also found that the combination of prosecutorial strikes of African American jurors and the 10-2 jury rule has sharply diminished the participation of African American jurors. {snip}


We are at a crossroads, with an opportunity to right this long-standing wrong. This year, the Louisiana legislature is putting a question on the November ballot asking voters whether they support a constitutional amendment to require unanimous jury verdicts in all criminal cases starting next year. Come November, voters will have the opportunity to strike down the discriminatory rule and uphold justice for all.


John Legend