October 5, 2020
NEW ORLEANS – The US Supreme Court today sent the cases of three people convicted by non-unanimous juries back to lower courts for reconsideration, citing the court’s ruling in Ramos v. Louisiana that split-jury convictions violate the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. In two of the cases, the court rejected arguments that defendants were too late to challenge the constitutionality of their convictions.
“Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled clearly and correctly that Jim Crow jury convictions are an unconstitutional relic of white supremacy – and yet more than 1,500 people remain imprisoned on the basis of these unfair trials,” said Jamila Johnson, Managing Attorney for the Jim Crow Juries Project at the Promise of Justice Initiative, which represented Mr. Ruffin and Mr. Mayeux. “Jermaine Ruffin, Charles Mayeux, and Nathaniel Lambert were all convicted and sent to prison despite the objections of jurors who had doubts about their guilt. Continuing to imprison people on the basis of an unconstitutional law solely because they had the bad luck of being convicted before an arbitrary date is unjust and unfair. We’re pleased the court has granted certiorari and ordered the lower courts to address these cases. We expect that the lower courts will reverse these unjust convictions once and for all.”
Mr. Ruffin and Mr. Mayeux were represented by Ben Cohen of the Promise of Justice Initiative. Mr. Lambert was represented by Amir Ali of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org