The unanimity requirement was established in 1367, became the norm in England during the 15th century and has been the norm since. In the United States, 48 states and the federal government have always required jury verdicts to be unanimous for a criminal conviction. Only two states, Louisiana and Oregon, departed from the unanimity rule for reasons that many believe were discriminatory and shameful.
On the first day of the new term, Oct. 7, the Supreme Court will hold oral argument in Ramos v. Louisiana, which challenges Louisiana’s outlier jury rule allowing a defendant to be convicted of a noncapital crime by a 11-1 or 10-2 jury verdict. Louisiana voters corrected this aberrational rule last year and now again require unanimity for future cases, but under the law at the time of Ramos’ trial, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole, even though two jurors believed that he was not guilty.
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