Business & Practice

Jury Unanimity Bid Gets High Court Look (1)

March 18, 2019, 1:33 PM; Updated: March 18, 2019, 3:11 PM

Unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases could soon become the law of the land after the U.S. Supreme Court March 18 granted review on the issue for next term.

If the justices decide that the federal Sixth Amendment unanimity right applies in state court, it will be the latest such instance of “incorporating” federal provisions to the states, an aspect of constitutional law brought to light recently this term with the high court’s closely watched decision in Timbs v. Indiana.

Eighth Amendment excessive fines protections apply to the states, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court in Timbs, while noting in her opinion that the right to unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases is still an outlier that only applies federally.

Nearly all courtrooms around the country already require unanimous convictions, except for Oregon and, until recently, Louisiana, which voted last November to outlaw the practice going forward.

But the Louisiana ballot measure, which doesn’t apply retroactively, won’t save Evangelisto Ramos, whose appeal the Supreme Court just granted.

“We are hopeful the Court took the case to restore the full protections of the Constitution to the State of Louisiana,” said Ramos’ attorney, G. Ben Cohen.

Ramos was convicted of murder at a Louisiana state court trial in 2016. Ten of his 12 jurors voted for guilt.

The case is Ramos v. Louisiana, U.S., 18-5924, review granted 3/18/19.

(Adds more background on the jury issue, comment from Cohen.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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