A Senate committee hears a constitutional amendment Tuesday from New Orleans Democrat J.P. Morrell that will require a jury’s verdict in a felony trial to be unanimous for conviction. Louisiana and Oregon are the only states that allows for ten out of twelve jurors to agree on a guilty verdict.
Loyola University Law Professor Dane Ciolino says the nation's highest court has heard numerous challenges to Louisiana's "majority rule" standard.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has allowed non unanimous juries and has not found them to be in violation of defendant's sixth amendment rights for a trial by jury."
Ciolino expects the Louisiana District Attorneys Association to lobby against this measure, but...
"DA's offices in the other 48 states that require unanimity don't have any problem with gaining guilty verdicts on a regular basis. I don't see any reason for concern."
Ciolino says it's unclear why Louisiana only requires 10 out of 12 jurors for a guilty verdict. He says some say it was established to diminish the affect African-Americans would have on a jury, but there’s another theory as well.
"Others however have argued that it's just a matter of avoiding hung juries and making the criminal justice process more efficient."
Oregon is also looking at a possible amendment in 2018 or 2020 to abolish the “majority rule” standard.