If the best argument that the state’s district attorney association has against requiring criminal jury convictions to be unanimous is that a change would throw the whole system into chaos, well, the group doesn't have much.
That argument against Senate Bill 243 by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, which longtime DA association executive director Pete Adams offered up to the Senate Judiciary C Committee Tuesday, is unconvincing on its face.
“In today’s society, getting 80 percent of people in any group to agree on any topic is a phenomenal task,” he said. “Everyone’s in their corner. More so than ever, people take their agendas into the courtroom. You’re inviting jury nullification.”
That doesn’t explain why federal juries in Louisiana manage to return unanimous guilty verdicts in overwhelming numbers, as the bill’s proponents pointed out, and it doesn’t explain why criminal justice systems haven’t ground to a halt in the 48 states that do require unanimous guilty verdicts.
A Senate committee voted Tuesday to move to the full Senate a bill that would put before Louisiana voters a constitutional amendment to junk t…
It doesn’t answer a fundamental legal question raised by a former DA who’s pushing the constitutional amendment, Ed Tarpley of Grant Parish, who asked why the presence of up to two holdouts on a jury isn’t enough to prove the presence of reasonable doubt.
It didn’t convince much of anyone on the committee. The vote in favor of Morrell’s bill was a decisive 5-1, with three Republicans joining two Democrats in forwarding the matter to the full Senate. That’s a promising start for a change that faces steep procedural hurdles; because it’s a constitutional amendment, it would require two-thirds votes in both legislative houses and approval by a majority of voters.
And Adams' premise falls far short of making the case that Louisiana should still zig while the rest of the country zags — especially when we’re talking about the prospect of locking someone up for a long time.