It was the summer of 1992, a couple of weeks before the beginning of school. I was looking forward to my new baby being born and thinking about completing high school. I had aspirations of going to college or just getting a job to be able to support my baby to come. Detectives surrounded my grandma's home in Avondale, saying they wanted to ask me some questions regarding a murder. On August 18, 1992, my dad and I drove to the authorities to find out what was going on.
After going from a person only being questioned, I was arrested and charged with 1st degree murder, along with my two cousins. My baby girl was born the very next day.
A single eyewitness said we had killed a drug dealer. This lone witness was an admitted crack user with a long and extensive criminal record.
The jury consisted of nine whites and three blacks. At one point at our trial, the jurors deadlocked at nine to three — along racial lines. They requested to see the witness’s original statements, but the judge denied the request. Had the jury seen the witness's original statement, it would have confirmed that he told the police he didn’t know who had committed the murder.
Eventually, one African American juror went along with voting to convict us. Two of the jurors held out; they were African American. Those two jurors were right We were actually innocent. I spent 15 years in prison for a crime I didn’t commit. With the assistance of Innocence Project New Orleans, we were exonerated.
For the first time since its birth in the Jim Crow era, a Louisiana law that allows juries to return non-unanimous verdicts in felony trials w…
In any other state, we wouldn’t have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Louisiana is one of only two states that allow people to be convicted of felonies with non-unanimous jury votes.
After the Civil War, when the 14th Amendment mandated that black men be allowed to serve on juries, Louisiana took action to maintain our second-class status. In 1898, the state changed its constitution so that a less than unanimous vote by a jury could convict a defendant of a felony. The purpose was to make sure that black jurors could be outvoted by a majority of white jurors. The official statements made at the 1898 Constitutional Convention stated that the intention was to "perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana."
On November 6, Louisiana will have a chance to overturn this expressly racist jury rule. A proposal on the ballot asks voters if they want to end the state’s split-jury statute and the unfair practice of convicting people of a felony without the unanimous consent of a jury.
Formerly incarcerated people are at the heart of the campaign to reject Louisiana’s outlier jury rule. We are knocking on doors. We are calling voters. We are registering new voters who have felt previously locked out and ignored by the system. We hope people across the country stand with us against this injustice.
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…
After 120 years of the non-unanimous jury rule, we have all the evidence we need to show that it worked as intended to perpetuate white supremacy. Louisiana leads the nation and the entire world in the incarceration of African Americans per capita. Every felony trial tells black jurors that their votes don’t matter and denies us full participation as citizens.
Fair-minded people everywhere should be concerned that the 10-2 jury rule relieves prosecutors of the burden of proving their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike other states, they don’t have to convince 100 percent of jurors. If there are one or two jurors who think the defendant is innocent, they are simply outvoted.
With the 10-2 jury rule, deliberations get cut short. It’s no surprise that Louisiana leads the country in wrongful convictions per capita. At least 12 Louisianans were convicted of noncapital felonies by non-unanimous juries and later exonerated. Eleven of us were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, even though not every member of the jury was convinced of our guilt.
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When I was in prison, I read law book after law book and sent letter after letter. I’m living proof that there’s always hope. That is why I believe Louisiana can right the wrong that it committed when it voted in a racist and oppressive non-unanimous jury scheme. We’ve seen how the state’s 10-2 jury rule has led to over-incarceration, wrongful convictions, and the silencing of black voices in civic life. Now that we know better, we can do better and vote this rule out.
Glenn Davis Jr. is a small-business owner and a homeowner who lives in Marrero.
For the last 120 years, Louisiana has had an unusual and long-standing allowance for split jury verdicts in felony cases.