Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry isn’t exactly wearing his opposition to Amendment 2 on his sleeve.
Days before voters weigh in on the state’s unusual non-unanimous jury law, Landry is declining to say anything about the referendum on a 120-year-old staple of Louisiana criminal justice -- despite having announced his opposition in early August.
“We are a no comment,” attorney general spokeswoman Ruth Wisher said this week in an email when asked about Landry’s current position.
Landry’s office told another media organization the same thing recently, suggesting that Landry, the lone statewide official who has publicly opposed the amendment, has no interest in doubling down.
A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 would return Louisiana to a requirement for unanimous jury verdicts in all felony cases for the first time since the late 19th century, beginning with trials for crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.
For the last 120 years, Louisiana has had an unusual and long-standing allowance for split j…
Only Louisiana and Oregon allow split verdicts with as few as 10 of 12 jurors in agreement, and only in the Pelican State can a defendant go away for life in prison without parole when one or two jurors disagree with the verdict.
The measure puts the state’s abnormal jury scheme directly before Louisiana voters for the first time. To reach the ballot, it needed two-thirds support from a Republican-led Legislature – a figure easily eclipsed in a final House vote.
It has since gained wide bipartisan support, including that of both major political parties, and no formal campaign in opposition. Among those endorsing the measure are 10 of the state’s district attorneys, the state GOP and Democratic parties and advocacy groups as divergent as the ACLU on the left and the Louisiana Family Forum on the right.
Landry never came out personally in his support for Amendment 2. Instead, when The Advocate sought his position in August, Landry had his chief deputy, Wilbur “Bill” Stiles III, and a political strategist, Brent Littlefield, speak for him.
At the time, Stiles said Landry believes “the non-unanimous jury law has a positive effect on the criminal justice system in Louisiana. We believe it makes for quicker and easier administration of the system.”
But now Landry, who is eyeing a gubernatorial run next year, is declining to take any public stance on the referendum – a rare bit of silence from the state’s top prosecutor over a galvanizing political issue.