More than 1k requests for new trials by inmates serving sentences based on Jim Crow jury verdicts

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Inmates convicted by a non-unanimous jury verdict have until Tuesday, April 20 to file an application of relief to seek a new trial.

Promise of Justice Initiate (PJI) out of New Orleans says they received 1,040 petitions for post-conviction relief.

Jim Crow jury verdicts are convictions based on non-unanimous juries.

“These are human stories people’s lives are being ruined,” Mercedes Montagnes, Executive Director Promise of Justice Initiative, stated.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled non-unanimous jury convictions violate the person’s right to a fair trial.

Promise of Justice Initiate says the ruling strikes down the practice in the two states that continued to acknowledge non-unanimous jury convictions Oregon and Louisiana.

“80% of the men and women still in prison with Jim Crow jury convictions are black; and 62% are serving life without the possibility of parole sentences,” Jamila Johnson, Managing Attorney for the Promise of Justice Initiative’s Jim Crow Juries Project, added.

The organization says the next steps is to get state lawmakers to approve a bill that would extend Tuesday’s deadline for another two years.

“What House Bill 346 would do is give people until April of 2023 to file which would make it so that all of the men and women who have been trying to get proof of their non-unanimous jury verdict during COVID; where courthouses have been understaffed and it’s been really hard to get documents from family members, that they would get the additional time to make sure that nobody gets left behind,” Johnson stated.

An East Baton Rouge woman who served as juror on a case that resulted with a non-unanimous verdict remains troubled by the experience.

“He was not tried by a jury of his peers.  I was the only African American person on the trial.  I remember being the closes in age to him,” JonRe Taylor, dissenting juror in Jim Crow jury conviction, explained.

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