Louisiana - Pending the decision of the Edwards v. Vannoy U.S. Supreme Court case, more than 1,500 Louisiana inmates could soon have another chance and a new trial.
"When they heard that the Supreme Court said their convictions were unconstitutional and when the Supreme Court said they came from a Jim Crow law, the question became will there be a remedy," said Jamilia Johnson who is the managing attorney of Jim Crow Juries Project at the Promise of Justice Initiative.
During Ramos v. Louisiana, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-unanimous jury verdicts were unconstitutional. Johnson, who represents more than 900 current Louisiana inmates convicted by a non-unanimous jury says the ruling should be retroactive. "Men and women who spend each night in Louisiana’s prisons, who have non-unanimous jury convictions, they are being held there with non-constitutional conviction."
She says Louisiana’s previous Jim Crow era law was rooted in racism.
"They were explicitly started for the purposes of silencing the voices of black jurors and convicting more black Louisianians," she said.
Pending the outcome of the Edwards v. Vannoy case, that could change. But Johnson says that isn’t the only path to new trials for her clients. 'The state supreme court could say that our local Louisiana values and the credibility of the criminal justice system is so important to us, that we will make this retroactive and that would give a path to these 1,500 people," Johnson said.
Regardless of the path to justice for her clients, Johnson says they’re optimistic about the outcome.