From Jim Crow to Life Without Parole: PJI Releases New Video on Origins and Impact of Jim Crow Juries

Animated video tells the story of how a practice devised by white supremacists continues to separate families in Louisiana 

August 20, 2020

NEW ORLEANS – The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) has launched a new video about the origins and ongoing impact of non-unanimous jury convictions. The animated video traces the origins of Jim Crow juries back to the late 1800s, when white supremacists wrote a new constitution to “establish the supremacy of the white race.” 

While Louisiana voters abolished Jim Crow juries prospectively in 2018, and the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional earlier this year, more than 1,500 people remain imprisoned on the basis of non-unanimous jury convictions. The majority of those are serving life without the possibility of parole. 

“The two most important things to know about Jim Crow juries right now is that they were invented by white supremacists and that more than 1,500 people are still being imprisoned as a result,” said Mercedes Montagnes, Executive Director of the Promise of Justice Initiative. “The Supreme Court spoke clearly that sentencing people to prison without the unanimous consent of a jury is unconstitutional – but we cannot forget the more than 1,500 people still languishing in prison due to these unjust convictions. This video seeks to sound the alarm about the plight of these families and press Louisiana officials to address this injustice by applying the Supreme Court’s ruling retroactively.” 

PJI is undertaking an unprecedented litigation campaign to restore justice to the more than 1,500 Louisianans who are still in prison due to non-unanimous jury convictions in state criminal trials, which were declared unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20, 2020 in Ramos v Louisiana. The landmark decision applies to future cases and is currently not being applied retroactively, leaving people already serving sentences due to non-unanimous verdicts – including life without possibility of parole – to remain in prison.

The petitions seek new trials for people convicted by a less-than-unanimous jury. Attorneys with PJI are working in partnership with more than 40 pro bono law firms and more than 150 lawyers across the country, and seek to file before April 20, 2021 to restore justice to those still in prison under unconstitutional non-unanimous jury convictions. 

The video is on Twitter at:

Watch on YouTube at:

CONTACT: Laura Swinford,

From Jim Crow to Life Without Parole: PJI Releases New Video on Origins and Impact of Jim Crow Juries
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