The US Supreme Court decision in Ramos v. Louisiana outlawed non-unanimous jury convictions as unconstitutional, leading to a new trial and acquittal for Evangelisto Ramos, a Black immigrant from Honduras. However, many others convicted on 10-2 or 11-1 jury votes before the decision face uncertain prospects for freedom, with over 1,500 such people estimated to be locked up in Louisiana. Oregon, the only other state that allowed non-unanimous verdicts, has granted new trials, but arguments to apply the ruling retroactively have been rejected by the US and Louisiana Supreme Courts. A proposed Louisiana bill to establish a commission to decide whether a verdict resulted in a miscarriage of justice and whether parole is warranted failed to pass.
According to an article in a recent article on Lockport Journal, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ramos v. Louisiana has sparked a renewed fight to review “Jim Crow” verdicts in Louisiana. The case, which outlawed nonunanimous jury convictions as unconstitutional, has already led to the acquittal of Evangelisto Ramos, a Black immigrant from Honduras who was previously sentenced to life based on a 10-2 jury conviction.
Ramos’ case is just one example of the hundreds of people convicted on nonunanimous verdicts in Louisiana who may be eligible for new trials in light of the Ramos decision. However, for many, the path to freedom remains murky. According to an article in the advocacy group Promise of Justice Initiative, there are still more than 1,500 people locked up in Louisiana who were convicted on 10-2 or 11-1 jury votes and whose appeals were exhausted before the Ramos case was decided.
In Oregon, the only other state that allowed nonunanimous verdicts for convictions before the Ramos case, the state Supreme Court granted new trials. But in both Louisiana and at the U.S. Supreme Court level, arguments to apply the ruling retroactively have been rejected. This has left advocates in Louisiana turning to the Legislature for potential remedies.
Recently, a bill was proposed in the Louisiana Legislature that would establish a commission with three retired state appellate or Supreme Court judges empowered to decide whether a nonunanimous verdict “resulted in a miscarriage of justice,” and whether parole is warranted. However, the bill has faced opposition from prosecutors and advocates alike, with some arguing that mandatory new trials would strain the court system and others criticizing the commission’s limited scope.
Despite the challenges, advocates remain hopeful that progress can be made towards reviewing and overturning “Jim Crow” verdicts in Louisiana. As Ramos himself told The Associated Press, “I knew my case was important because a lot of people were going to get their freedom back.” With continued advocacy and pressure on lawmakers, it is possible that more people like Ramos can be freed from unjust convictions and given a chance at a fair trial.