WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy is the latest high-profile Louisiana politician to throw his endorsement behind Amendment 2, a ballot proposition that would require unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases.
Cassidy's endorsement, announced Wednesday, adds to a growing bipartisan choir backing the change to state's unusual, 120-year-old practice of allowing juries to convict or acquit on split votes. Every other state but Oregon requires unanimous verdicts; Louisiana and Oregon require only 10 of 12 jurors to agree.
“Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental principle of our society, and a split-jury law undermines that principle,” said Cassidy, the state's senior senator, in a statement. “Louisiana should join Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and every other state but one in requiring unanimous jury decisions in all non-capital felony cases.”
Cassidy's announcement noted the wide range of groups from across the ideological spectrum currently backing the change, including the Catholic Church, the conservative Louisiana Family Forum and the liberal ACLU of Louisiana.
A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 would require a unanimous jury verdict to convict a defendant in all felony cases for crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2019. Prior rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court have required unanimous verdicts in all death penalty cases for a number of years.
Cassidy told The Advocate in September that he was strongly leaning toward voting in favor of Amendment 2 but wanted to do additional research on ballot propositions before making a final decision.
Cassidy joins Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, Louisiana's lone Democrat in Washington and an outspoken critic of the state's split-jury law, in endorsing the change.
The Advocate has asked other members of the state's congressional delegation where they stand on Amendment 2 but hasn't yet heard back from most. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, declined to take a position on Amendment 2.