Oregon might soon be the only state in the nation where you can be convicted of a felony without unanimous jury agreement.
In most states, a jury must unanimously agree before convicting someone of a felony. But in two states—Louisiana and Oregon—that is not the case. Tomorrow's election results may make Oregon the final outlier
In Oregon, a person can be convicted of a felony if at least 10 out of 12 jurors find them guilty. There is an exception in Oregon for murder charges, which require a unanimous guilty verdict. In Louisiana, a person can be convicted for any felony, including murder, with a 10 out of 12 jury majority.
But Louisiana's Proposition 2 hopes to change that. The ballot measure would require a unanimous jury decision for all felony convictions, upending a rule that many see as a holdover from Jim Crow-era policies.
Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, spoke to NPR’s Atlanta station about the split-jury law.
“I would certainly say that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by this split-jury law,” Armstrong said. “What I think is also interesting, though, is this law allows the district attorney to have more leverage in terms of plea deals, in terms of the charges that they make.”
Louisiana's split-jury law was written into the state's 1898 constitution, penned shortly after the Civil War. Oregon's law dates back a ballot measure that passed in 1934. Campaign materials for the measure cited the possibility of “untrained immigrants” being put on juries to fear-bate people into supporting it.
In Louisiana, the effort to overturn the split-jury law has garnered bipartisan support. That could be the case in the 2019 Oregon Legislative Session as well, as some state senators have floated the possibility of a bill to eliminate split jury verdicts.