US Supreme Court Brief: Unanimous Juries

“The Supreme Court is considering whether or not people who are in jail on past non-unanimous convictions deserve new trials. I’m honored to sign a friend of the court brief to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that everyone deserves a fair trial.” -Graham Bosworth

As background, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Ramos v. Louisiana that Louisiana’s long-standing non-unanimous jury system was unconstitutional. In discussing Mr. Ramos’ conviction by a non-unanimous jury, the Court held that:

Not a single Member of this Court is prepared to say Louisiana secured his conviction constitutionally under the Sixth Amendment. No one before us suggests that the error was harmless.

The United States Supreme Court went even further and addressed the racist motivation behind Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury system:

Though it’s hard to say why these laws persist, their origins are clear. Louisiana first endorsed nonunanimous verdicts for serious crimes at a constitutional convention in 1898. According to one committee chairman, the avowed purpose of that convention was to “establish the supremacy of the white race,” and the resulting document included many of the trappings of the Jim Crow era: a poll tax, a combined literacy and property ownership test, and a grandfather clause that in practice exempted white residents from the most onerous of these requirements.

Nor was it only the prospect of African-Americans voting that concerned the delegates. Just a week before the convention, the U. S. Senate passed a resolution calling for an investigation into whether Louisiana was systemically excluding African-Americans from juries.Seeking to avoid unwanted national attention, and aware that this Court would strike down any policy of overt discrimination against African-American jurors as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the delegates sought to undermine African-American participation on juries in another way. With a careful eye on racial demographics, the convention delegates sculpted a “facially race-neutral” rule permitting 10-to-2 verdicts in order “to ensure that African-American juror service would be meaningless.”

Non-unanimous juries are now unconstitutional, and Louisiana cannot go forward with any future trial that does not require a unanimous verdict of all jurors. However, the Court now has to determine whether or not the hundreds of people currently incarcerated in Louisiana after being convicted by non-unanimous juries are entitled to new trials. The Supreme Court has taken up the case of Edwards v. Vannoy to address this specific issue.

Graham was invited to sign an Amicus Brief and lend his name in support of Thedrick Edwards and all other individuals serving jail sentences after being convicted by less than a unanimous jury. He was proud to do so.

Graham cares about the fair and equal application of the law and has been vocal and involved in the fight for unanimous verdicts. We’re proud that OUR candidate for Criminal District Court, Section “D” stands up for what’s right for the people of Louisiana.

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