As part of The Advocate's investigation into Louisiana's history and nonunanimous jury verdicts, this timeline details the key events that have brought the state to where it is today.
Can't see timeline below? Click here. (Full text below)
1860: Black people first appear on juries in the United States, reportedly in Massachusetts.
1863: President Lincoln signs Emancipation Proclamation
1875: Congress makes it a federal crime to exclude people from jury service "on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."
1872-1878: In New Orleans, black people serve on federal grand juries in percentages similar to their share of the city's population.
1879: Congress passes bill giving Democrats more power in juror selection through a partisan commissioner. Black participation on federal juries in Louisiana shrivels.
1880: In the case of a former slave convicted of murder by an all-white jury, U.S. Supreme Court finds West Virginia's outright ban on black jurors violates 14th Amendment.
1880: Louisiana lawmakers change Code of Practice, precursor to state civil code, to allow for split verdicts.
1894: Louisiana lawmakers pass new jury selection law for Orleans Parish that allows local commissioners leeway in selecting jurors, resulting in fewer black jurors.
For the last 120 years, Louisiana has had an unusual and long-standing allowance for split jury verdicts in felony cases.
1897: A Creole man is booted from a federal jury in New Orleans. Civil rights attorney Louis Martinet solicits a New Hampshire Senator to order federal inquiry.
1898: Louisiana convention delegates craft new state constitution effectively ridding blacks from voter rolls. They also ratify 9-3 verdicts in serious felony trials.
1913: New Louisiana constitution, split verdicts remain.
1921: New Louisiana constitution, split verdicts remain.
1934: Oregon passes nonunanimous verdict law, joining Louisiana as only other state allowing them.
1939: U.S. Supreme Court quashes capital indictment over systematic exclusion of black people from St. John the Baptist Parish grand juries. No one could remember an African American serving on one since 1896.
1944: Louisiana Supreme Court overturns conviction of black man in murder of white police chief in Allen Parish. No black person had ever served on a jury in the parish’s 31-year history.
1966: Federal appeals court tosses Orleans Parish jury selection method in which clerks avoided picking manual laborers and daily wage earners, finding it systematically kept blacks off jury venires.
1970: U.S. Supreme Court rules that the constitutional guarantee of a trial by jury does not require that juries have 12 members.
1972: U.S. Supreme Court approves split verdicts for state courts, but not federal ones, in challenges to the Oregon and Louisiana laws.
Matthew Allen was 20 when he stared across a courtroom in Houma at the 12 men and women who would decide whether he would spend the rest of hi…
1973: Louisiana convention delegates raise the number of jurors required for a verdict from nine to 12, and the number of members on “bobtail” juries from five to six.
1979: In Louisiana case, U.S. Supreme Court outlaws split verdicts for 6-member juries.
1986: In Batson v. Kentucky, U.S. Supreme Court sets up process for challenging systematic exclusion of certain people or groups from juries.
1989: Louisiana Supreme Court overturns armed robbery conviction, saying prosecutors tried to use split-verdict law to hide racial discrimination in jury selection.
1995: California contemplates nonunanimous jury verdicts, declines to adopt.
2009: Louisiana Supreme Court puts foot down over state challenges to the split-verdict scheme, deeming the issue settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
2017: Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter holds hearing over a challenge to Louisiana’s split-verdict law, then denies it, insists on more data.
2018: Louisiana Senate passes bill to let state voters decide on nonunanimous jury law. Bill now pending in House.