The Legislature is asking the citizens of Louisiana if they want to amend the State Constitution in regards to unanimous juries. Currently, state law provides for a conviction with a jury verdict of 10-2, 11-1 or unanimous. The proposed Constitutional Amendment would align Louisiana law with 48 other states by requiring a unanimous jury verdict in all felony jury trials. One aspect that perhaps some people may not realize is that the unanimous verdict requirement may result in more hung juries, meaning that the jury is not able to reach a unanimous verdict.
When this occurs, the case must be re-prosecuted in the court system and dealt with in a different manner. As prosecutors, our job is to present sound evidence in all criminal cases and allow a jury to consider the evidence and related facts to determine the verdict. We have absolute confidence in our prosecutors to prosecute cases to a jury of 12 persons and obtain a just verdict. However, it could be a concern that the proposed amendment may eventually be applied retroactively by a court ruling.
If this occurs, we may have to re-prosecute 30-year-old felony cases with 30-year-old evidence and possibly unavailable witnesses who may have since died. With that said, I am confident that we can continue to seek justice for victims and prosecute cases fairly in our court with the rules that are established by the Legislature and the voters.
~District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington