NEW ORLEANS (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether a ban on non-unanimous jury verdicts must apply to convictions before 2018.
This could affect roughly 1,500 people behind bars. But this case centers on one man convicted of murder by a ten to two jury 25 years ago. Deputy Director at The Promise of Justice Initiative Jamila Johnson said she is encouraged by the case.
“We are incredibly grateful to the court and to everyone who has worked to bring this issue here so that they can make this decision,” Johnson said.
Non-unanimous juries were prohibited in Louisiana in 2018. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court followed, ruling non-unanimous verdicts unconstitutional.
“We feel like this is the moment, this is the moment that they can take to correct this wrong and make Louisiana and all Louisianans safer,” said Staff Attorney for the Non-Unanimous Jury Project at The Promise of Justice Initiative Claude-Michael Comeau.
Advocates say this was the last Jim Crow law in Louisiana, saying it is the people’s constitutional right to have a new and fair trial.
“This is where justice can be done. This is where Louisiana can finally end Jim Crow in Louisiana. I was born in Louisiana. I was bred in Louisiana. Louisiana is better than Jim Crow. We can defeat it right here, right now,” said Hardell Ward, the managing attorney for the Non-Unanimous Jury Project at The Promise of Justice Initiative.
This case hangs on Reginald Reddick’s 1997 murder conviction where the jury came back ten to two.
“Mr. Reddick went to trial nearly 100 after the 1989 constitutional convention, met for the purpose of ensuring the supremacy of the white race in Louisiana, and hopefully today we’re able to right that wrong,” Johnson said. “I feel like this is a case with the opportunity to really heal Louisiana.”
The state declined to comment, but in court, they argued the cost to retry these convictions would be significant and could be emotionally traumatic for the victims and their families.
The state Supreme Court has not made a decision yet, and probably won’t right away.