Posted by 20 April 2020
Today the Supreme Court held that there must be unanimous jury verdicts to convict someone in criminal cases.
In Ramos v. Louisiana, the court held that it violated the Constitution to convict someone of a crime using a jury that did not return a unanimous verdict. This applies only to offenses deemed “serious.” The court did not rule on cases concerning petty offenses.
This decision arose from the conviction of Evangelisto Ramos for murder in Louisiana. A jury in that state found him guilty by a verdict of 10-2. At that time, Louisiana allowed non-unanimous jury verdicts. It has subsequently changed its law.
The decision finding these verdicts unconstitutional was 6-3, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. The majority concluded that the standard at the time the Constitution was written required a unanimous verdict. The dissenting justices said that the court had previously held that it was not unconstitutional for states to use non-unanimous jury verdicts, so the court should not be overturning precedent here.
Only Oregon is currently affected by this decision, at it was the last remaining state that allowed criminal convictions without a unanimous verdict.
Do you support requiring unanimous jury verdicts for criminal convictions?