LOUISIANA - The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that the 2020 decision of Ramos v. Louisiana finding non-unanimous jury verdicts unconstitutional, will not be applied retroactively.
The 6-3 decision in the case known as Edwards v. Vannoy leaves thousands of inmates in limbo - 80 percent of whom are black and serving life sentences.
"I don’t think words can express our reaction to the decision or the reaction of our loved ones and the loved ones of the individuals that are incarcerated," said Jamila Johnson, Managing attorney for the Promise of Justice Initiative.
Johnson says they were disappointed in the decision given the racial tension that’s gone on during the past year.
"Even in 2021, after last year’s protests and explanations over race throughout the country, we can say to a group of people that their lives don’t matter as much as the cost of re-trying cases."
Oregon was the only other state to allow split jury verdicts prior to 2020. Johnson says anywhere else and these verdicts would have resulted in a mistrial.
"Anywhere else other than Oregon and Louisiana, the result of their trials would have been a mistrial. A conviction with a non-unanimous jury verdict is no conviction at all," Johnson said.
Despite the ruling from the Supreme Court, there is still hope for these men and women through the state legislature. A hearing for a house bill happened last week.
"At that hearing, we heard testimony from the former chief justice, from survivors, from people who were wrongfully incarcerated with non-unanimous jury verdicts who have since been exonerated and from system stakeholders, family members of folks who are in prison under these Jim-Crow jury laws," Johnson said.
While extremely disappointed in the decision, she says the fight to get these men and women new, fair trials is not over.
The house bill in question is HB346 which would provide for new trials or a chance to go before a parole board. A vote on the bill is expected to occur in the judiciary committee sometime next week.