Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts Determination Before the Supreme Court

Last Monday, October 7, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for a case that could provide a definitive structure for states regarding non-unanimous petit jury verdicts. Ramos v. Louisiana may provide clarity to an earlier decision which required federal juries to come to a unanimous verdict, but conceded to state juries the ability to come to a divided verdict. See Apodaca v. Oregon,  406 U.S. 404 (1972).

Currently, Oregon is the only state in the United States that permits non-unanimous jury verdicts, after the only other holdout, Louisiana, repealed the non-unanimous rule last year. Ballotpedia provides a concise summary of the procedural posture thus far:

In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied review.

It will be interesting to track this case as it moves through the Supreme Court, and prosecutors beyond the jurisdictions who would be most immediately affected should still keep an eye on what is to come.

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