Non-unanimous jury relief bill fails in committee

Published: May 27, 2021

By: Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—A bill to allow 1,500 prisoners who faced non-unanimous juries a chance for parole or other relief failed Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill, HB346, was written by the chairman of the committee, Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace. It won all four Democrats’ support but failed to sway any Republicans. It failed with a 7-4 vote and was voluntarily deferred by Gaines.

“Shame on y’all,” someone shouted as the large crowd gathered to watch the bill left the room.

Over an hour and a half of testimonies were given in support of the bill, from people who faced incarceration from non-unanimous juries and from people who served on them. No opposition to the bill was given.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Will Harrell, the senior policy counsel at Voice of the Experienced, a group that lobbies for changes in the criminal justice system. 

Harrell read from a letter from Paul Goins, an inmate counsel at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. The letter urged the committee to do away with, as Goins put it, “what we all know is a racially motivated system.” 

Louisiana was one of only two states – the other was Oregon – that for many decades allowed non-unanimous jury convictions in serious felony cases. Louisiana voters approved a measure in 2018 to ban 10-2 guilty verdicts, and require all 12 jurors to be unanimous, going forward.

Read more at BIZ Magazine

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