WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDSU) – The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Wednesday in a case related to non-unanimous jury verdicts. The case has potential to overturn hundreds of Louisiana prisoners’ convictions.
At question in Thedrick Edwards v. Louisiana is whether an earlier ruling barring non-unanimous jury verdicts should apply to past convictions obtained by a split-verdict.
More than 1,500 current Louisiana inmates could be affected, according to a report from The Promise of Justice Initiative. The report says that number includes about 900 inmates serving out life-without-parole sentences.
The high court in April found split verdicts stemmed from Jim Crow-era racist attitudes designed to silence the voices of Black jurors. That decision, Evangelisto Ramos v. Louisiana, effectively vacated split verdict convictions and granted new trials in cases that were still under appeal — but not cases in which the appeals had been exhausted.
The Promise of Justice Initiative report, published last week, found a greater share of Black inmates convicted by split juries, at 80%, than the 67.5% of the wider prison population that is Black.
Louisiana and Oregon were the only states that allowed split verdicts in felony cases until Louisiana voters abolished non-unanimous jury verdicts in 2019 through a ballot measure. The new rule only applied to cases initiated after it went into effect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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