From left: Will Snowden, Mithun Kamath, Norris Henderson, and Aaron Ahlquist discuss Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law and the amendment that would change it.
Twelve men, one room, and a murder charge.
“It has to be twelve to nothing, either way. That’s the law.”
Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” is one of the most respected films centered around the criminal justice system. But the overall plot, where members of a 12-man jury must agree on a verdict that could send a teenager to the electric chair, could never occur in the state of Louisiana under state law.
Louisiana does not require unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials, instead allowing 10-2 verdicts to send the accused to prison for life. The abnormal verdict law stems from nearly 130 years ago, when delegates at an overtly racist convention ratified the state constitution to allow for non-unanimous juries. Norris Henderson, state director of the Unanimous Jury Coalition, explained the laws’ history during an intimate panel hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.
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