Supreme Court Rules that Jury Verdicts in Criminal Cases Must be Unanimous
In a somewhat surprising 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court yesterday overruled long-standing precedent and held that the 6th Amendment to the Constitution requires that juries be unanimous in order to convict a criminal defendant. While federal courts and most states do require unanimous juries, Louisiana and Oregon had allowed convictions when only 10 of the 12 jurors believed the defendant to be guilty. In its decision, the Court expressly overruled a 1972 Supreme Court case, Apodaca v. Oregon, which upheld split-verdict statutes in Louisiana and Oregon.
In dismissing the Apodaca decision, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch noted that the laws in Louisiana and Oregon allowing split-verdicts were rooted in discrimination, created to diminish the input of black jurors who might hold out for innocence if they believed a minority defendant was being railroaded.
Nola.com: "Gorsuch, [Justice Brett] Kavanaugh and Justice Sonia Sotomayor also stressed the racist origins of the split-verdict laws in both Louisiana and Oregon as factors that “uniquely matter here,” as Sotomayor wrote."
“Today, Louisiana’s and Oregon’s laws are fully — and rightly — relegated to the dustbin of history,” she wrote, adding that “overruling precedent here is not only warranted, but compelled.”
By: Don Lam & Curated Content