March 28, 2019
It’s long been the law of the land that a criminal defendant cannot be convicted unless and until the State establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
And you’re probably thinking that the jury must be unanimous. You’re thinking wrong.
Despite direct evidence or eyewitness testimony, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of a gruesome and violent murder and sentenced to life without parole in the state of Louisiana. But the verdict was not unanimous. Only 10 of the 12 jurors were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, and that ‘s all it takes in Louisiana (the only other states that allows criminal convictions by a non-unanimous jury is Oregon).
But not for long.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the matter, and it would appear likely that the Court will rule that the Sixth Amendment — which mandates unanimity in criminal jury trials — is applicable to the States by virtue of the 14th Amendment.
In the meantime, last fall, by a 2-1 margin, Louisiana voters approved an amendment to that state’s constitution requiring unanimous jury verdicts. Unfortunately for Ramos, the amendment was not made retroactive.
He’ll have to wait for the Supreme Court to do that for him.