State Watch

Louisiana ends Jim Crow-era law, will now require unanimous juries for all felony convictions

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An empty prison cell is seen in this Aug. 30, 2018, file photo. Several bills pending in Congress would attempt to correct sentencing disparities.

Louisiana voters on Tuesday decided that unanimous jury verdicts should be required in order to convict someone of a felony for crimes that take place after 2018.

By approving the state constitutional amendment, voters helped end a Jim-Crow era law that has long influenced Louisiana’s legal system, reported.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states in the country where a person can be sent to prison by juries that aren’t unanimous.

{mosads}Democratic state Sen. J.P. Morrell reportedly celebrated the victory at a gathering on Tuesday.

“You, now, ladies and gentlemen have ended 138 years of Jim Crow,”  Morrell, who sponsored the legislation that led to Amendment 2, said. “You have fundamentally changed criminal justice in Louisiana.”

“This would literally change what mass incarceration looks like in Louisiana,” Norris Henderson, a prominent advocate for ex-offenders in Louisiana, said of the move, according to the local publication. “This is probably the most important ballot measure ever in my lifetime.” 

Jee Pak, who heads the Innocence Project New Orleans, told the publication he hopes the decision will lead to fewer convictions in the state and more thoughtful jury deliberations.

“I’m hoping if they have to deliberate to a full consensus, they would have to be more mindful of having to discuss whether the state proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Pak said.

According to, Louisiana was the only state in the country where someone could get a life sentence without parole on a jury ruling of 10-2 or 11-1.

In 1974 the state raised the requirement for jury conviction from a 9-3 split to 10-2 and the state has faced numerous lawsuits over the years stating that the requirement was unconstitutional.

According to the local publication, the ballot measure drew support from both conservative and left-leaning organizations, with backers of the measure including the Louisiana Republican Party and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Tags Jim Crow legal system Louisiana
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