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.)


TVA Releases Draft Environmental Assessment For Johnsonville Steam Supply

The Tennessee Valley Authority has released a draft Environmental Assessment on a proposal that would allow the Johnsonville Fossil Plant site to continue to provide steam for cogeneration use after the coal plant closes. The draft study considers the environmental effects of the two alternatives under consideration: A) take no action or B) add a heat recovery steam generator ... (click for more)

Attorney General Reaches Settlement With Middle Tennessee Auto Dealer

Middle Tennessee auto dealer, Wholesale Inc., has agreed to immediately change its advertising practices and pay the State of Tennessee $50,000, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced. A Davidson County Court approved the settlement between Wholesale, Inc., the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, and the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs. The agreement centers ... (click for more)

Erlanger's Good Financial News Continues With $11.4 Million Profit For Past 3 Months; Profit At $25.3 Million After 9 Months

Erlanger Health System's good financial news keeps coming - with the announcement on Monday of a profit of $11.4 million for the past three months. Brit Tabor said the hospital has a profit of $25.3 million for the first nine months of the fiscal year. Kevin Spiegel, hospital president, said more good news is projected for the fourth quarter. Mr. Tabor said, "Our market ... (click for more)

Erlanger To Get $100 Million New Electronic Medical Records System

Erlanger Health System will be getting a new electronic medical records system costing just short of $100 million, Erlanger CEO and President Kevin Spiegel said Monday. He said the old Legacy IT system was the hospital's #1 dissatisfaction source. The hospital board is to be asked to approve the system, which will be paid for over several years, at the May board meeting. ... (click for more)

Shock Should Be At Low Teacher Salaries - And Response (4)

In a recent article, Commissioner Tim Boyd is quoted as being shocked at the "high" salaries of central office personnel. While I agree that their salaries are significantly more than what a classroom teacher could ever hope to make, I believe that his shock and disgust are misplaced.  Those salaries, when compared to private-sector jobs, are hardly out of line. Superintendent ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Licker’ Gets 55 Counts

In what was described as “a scene from some sick horror movie,” Giles County sheriff’s deputies and animal welfare officers raided the farm of known “Big Licker” Jeffery Alan Mitchell near Pulaski, Tn., last week and confiscated 55 Tennessee Walking Horses, all horribly malnourished and some that were so emaciated they could no longer walk. By Sunday, the horses were receiving medical ... (click for more)