In forty-eight other states and in federal courts across the country, a conviction requires a unanimous vote – all jurors must agree on whether a prosecutor has met the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For hundreds of years, dating back to common law before the constitution, the trial by jury has been repeatedly described by Justice Antonin Scalia, quoting Sir William Blackstone, as:
“the most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy, or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbours and equals.”
Louisiana is the only state where someone can be sentenced to life without parole without a unanimous decision of a jury. Non-unanimous juries allow conviction even where two citizens have reasonable doubts about the evidence. They are, as a result, unreliable. More than forty percent of all those who have been recently exonerated were (mistakenly) found guilty by non-unanimous juries.
On November 6th, Louisiana voters will have a chance to change that. Amendment 2, a ballot initiative, would require unanimous agreement by jurors for all felony trials.
Jason is joined by with Doug Dilosa of Rising Foundations and Chris Pourciau the Deputy Director of the Unanimous Jury Coalition, through the Promise of Justice Initiative.
Doug Dilosa is himself a victim of non-unanimous jury. DiLosa was wrongfully convicted of second degree murder in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole with less than a unanimous consensus of his guilt. Based on the information and evidence Doug was able to gather on his case, in 2000 the Federal Court reversed his conviction and he was released from prison in January of 2001. For more information about his case please listen to Dilosa’s first interview on Wrongful Conviction, which you can find here.
For more information on how you can help please visit www.unanimousjury.org