Approximately 300 people from Orleans Parish could receive new trials under new district attorney
September 24, 2020
NEW ORLEANS – Three candidates running for Orleans Parish District Attorney have committed to review cases of Louisianans currently incarcerated due to a non-unanimous jury conviction, should they be elected to office. The candidates’ pledge, reaffirmed at Wednesday’s candidate forum hosted by The People’s DA Coalition, is a critical step toward restoring justice to people who remain in prison due to non-unanimous jury convictions, which were ruled unconstitutional in April by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ramos v Louisiana. The ruling has not yet been applied retroactively, leaving more than 1,500 Louisianans serving sentences under an unconstitutional law.
City Council President Jason Williams, retired Judge Keva Landrum and retired Judge Arthur Hunter said they would not impose procedural bars for the approximately 324 people who are still imprisoned after being convicted by Jim Crow juries in New Orleans. The fourth candidate, retired judge Morris Reed did not appear at the forum.
“For the first time, Orleans Parish voters have a chance to elect a district attorney who is committed to restoring justice to those convicted under an unconstitutional law that has for too long stolen the freedom of thousands of Louisianans, while destroying families and undermining communities,” said Jamila Johnson, Managing Attorney for the Jim Crow Juries Project at the Promise of Justice Initiative. “District Attorneys have a powerful role in helping to heal the wounds from this shameful practice, and we look forward to working with D.A.’s throughout the state to dismantle this painful relic of the Jim Crow era.”
The use of non-unanimous jury convictions in criminal trials dates back to the dawn of the Jim Crow era in 1898, when white supremacists in Louisiana came together to write a new constitution. For years, Louisiana and Oregon have been the only two states that allowed people to be convicted of serious crimes without the unanimous consent of a jury. In 2018, 64 percent of Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2, which abolished non-unanimous jury convictions for future felony cases.
Attorneys with PJI are working in partnership with more than 40 pro bono law firms and more than 150 lawyers across the country to restore justice to those still in prison under unconstitutional non-unanimous jury convictions.
CONTACT: Laura Swinford, 314-856-2799, firstname.lastname@example.org