Lee Davis: Supreme Court Declines To Hear Case Regarding Legality Of Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis

The Supreme Court decided earlier this week that it would not hear a case about whether the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial includes a condition that the juries reach their verdicts unanimously.

The issue arose because two states, Louisiana and Oregon, allow criminal convictions with less-than-unanimous verdicts. Defendants in both states can be found guilty of a crime if jurors split 11-1 or 10-2. Every other state and the federal government require that jurors reach a unanimous verdict.

Lawyers in Louisiana have long argued that the U.
S. Supreme Court should hear the case given that they claim the rule is a product of Jim Crow-era laws that were put in place to marginalize the role of African-Americans in the legal system. Advocates for change insist that the racial impact of the law is still being seen today. In Jefferson Parish, prospective black jurors are challenged at more than three times the rate of prospective white jurors. Given this imbalance, and the state’s non-unanimous system, a full 80% of guilty verdicts in Jefferson parish are able to be decided without any black votes in favor of conviction.

Those attorneys arguing that the Court agree to hear the case further claimed that the less-than-unanimous system reduces jury reliability. They pointed out that Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, where the case at issue originated, has the fourth highest rate of wrongful jury convictions in the country. Adjacent Orleans Parish has the highest rate.

The case at issue involves Corey Miller, a rapper from New Orleans who was convicted of second-degree murder back in 2002 after a nightclub shooting killed a 16-year-old. The crime scene was chaotic and testimony during trial was conflicted. Miller was tried and convicted with a vote of 10-2. As a result of his conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole.

The issue of non-unanimous jury verdicts was considered by the Supreme Court once before, in 1972. In that case, the court split 4-4 until Justice Powell broke the tie, coming down in support of non-unanimous verdicts. At the time, more than 40 years ago, Louisiana and Oregon were the only states with such systems. Today, the two states remain alone. This legal isolation is what has prompted many to insist the systems are backwards and in need of modernization.


---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: SPRAY EQUIPMENT & SERVICE CENTER, INC. 311 PATTIE WICHITA, KS 67211   SPRAY EQUIPMENT & SERVICE CENTER, INC. 311 PATTIE WICHITA, KS 67211   DEVELOP CHATTANOOGA INC 1467 MARKET ST #207 CHATTANOOGA, TN 37402   DEVELOP CHATTANOOGA INC 1467 MARKET ST #207 CHATTANOOGA, ... (click for more)

Georgia Ranked Sixth Nationally For Job Growth

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that  Georgia is ranked sixth nationally and third in the Southeast for top job growth. With the creation of over 79,300 new jobs in the past 12 months, Georgia represents a strong 2.0 percent annual growth rate, which is higher than the nation’s average of 1.8 percent. Georgia also had solid ... (click for more)

2 People, Possibly A 3rd Shot On Wilson Street; One Victim Had "Life-Threatening" Wounds

Two people were shot on Wilson Street on Sunday night, including one who was critically injured. One was a juvenile, and the other has been identified as Justin Common, 19. At approximately 8:22 p.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2300 Wilson St. for shots fired in the area. O fficers located two black males suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. The juvenile ... (click for more)

Jumoke Johnson Jr. To Plead Guilty On Selling Crack Cocaine

A youth who was in the news earlier as a teen who had been the first in his family to graduate from Brainerd High School and who found a patron willing to pay for his college education is set to plead guilty on Tuesday to a charge of selling crack cocaine. Jumoke Johnson Jr., who turned 21 on Saturday, dropped out of Miles College in Alabama after one semester and has been ... (click for more)

Conservation On Signal Mountain

The town of Signal Mountain appointed a working group to put together a conservation easement to protect certain of the town's park lands.  The members of the Conservation Easement Working Group would like to respond to concerns and comments raised about the town’s efforts to protect certain park land from residential or commercial development by granting a conservation ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s ‘Hate The SEC’ Day

The boo birds came out on the fly on the ESPN website Sunday afternoon, this moments after the latest AP College Football “Top 25” included eight teams from the Southeastern Conference.   What set naysayers aglow was Mississippi State, after upsetting LSU 34-29 Saturday night, debuted on the list at No. 14 while Clemson, playing Florida State in an overtime thriller, got tossed ... (click for more)