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Innocence Project New Orleans and Innocence Project Urge Supreme Court to Hold that Constitution Requires Unanimous Jury Verdicts

By October 7, 2019 No Comments

Organizations previously filed amicus brief highlighting those wrongfully convicted by non-unanimous juries

October 7, 2019 – Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Ramos v. Louisiana, in which the Court will decide whether the U.S. Constitution requires jury verdicts in criminal cases to be unanimous. The Innocence Project and Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Ramos, highlighting the number of innocent people in Louisiana who have been wrongly convicted by a non-unanimous juries. 

A law designed and implemented to nullify the vote of Black jurors has contributed to wrongful convictions. Fourteen of the innocent prisoners exonerated in Louisiana were convicted by non-unanimous jury verdicts, nine were exonerated through the work of IPNO and the Innocence Project. Eleven of the fourteen were Black, and were almost all young men or teenagers when they were arrested. Together, they spent a combined 224 years in Louisiana’s prisons for crimes they did not commit even though at least one juror at each of their trials voted “not guilty.” Their profiles are below. 

“Because we believe requiring unanimous jury verdicts will encourage more inclusive juries and protect against wrongful convictions and the conviction of defendants on flimsy evidence, IPNO and the Innocence Project join the many other amici in this case in urging the Supreme Court to confirm the right to a unanimous jury verdict in a criminal case,” said Emily Maw, IPNO’s senior counsel.

The amicus brief filed by IPNO and the Innocence Project tells the Court of the injustices these men suffered and highlights some of the collateral effects that IPNO and the Innocence Project have seen in the cases of those who IPNO and the Innocence Project have exonerated in Louisiana.

The effects of the non-unanimous jury rule include defendants being convicted on very weak evidence (defendants convicted on one kind of evidence only, such as Kia Stewart being convicted on a single eyewitness identification), defendants being convicted when there are serious problems with the State’s case (as when there are unanswered questions such as Archie Williams being convicted of aggravated rape based on a single eyewitness identification even when bloody fingerprints at the scene did not match Mr. Williams or the victim), and the voices of minority jurors being silenced. In the six cases where we have jurors’ demographic information, 57% of Black jurors’s votes were ignored whereas only 3.5% of white jurors’ votes were ignored.

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Reginald Adams served 33 years, seven months and 25 days in prison for the murder of a New Orleans Police Department officer’s wife. After hours of interrogation by the police, Mr. Adams confessed to the murder in a confession riddled with errors on the basic facts of the crime. IPNO later discovered that the police knew who had committed the crime, but had not disclosed it. Mr. Adams was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict.

Gene Bibbins spent 16 years, eight months and four days in prison for the aggravated rape and burglary of a teenage girl in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury in 1986. In 2003, Innocence Project DNA evidence exonerated him. Mr. Bibbins was the first inmate to win access to biological evidence under Louisiana’s post-conviction DNA testing statute.

Gerald Burge spent six years in prison for a second degree murder in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict. Mr. Burge was acquitted of all charges in September 1992 after it was shown that the prosecution failed to turn over exculpatory evidence, including that two witnesses perjured themselves on the stand.

Glenn Davis spent 14 years, eight months and 14 days in prison for a second-degree murder in Westwego, Louisiana. He and his co-defendants, Larry Delmore (16 years, one month and 11 days) and Terrence Meyers (16 years, one month and 11 days) were convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict in which the only evidence of their guilt was the testimony of an eyewitness who did not witness the crime. There were only three Black jurors on their case, and two of them cast not guilty votes. The deliberation lasted just over three hours. Tragically, Mr. Meyers passed away less than two years after his exoneration.

Douglas Dilosa spent 14 years in prison for the murder of his wife. He was convicted by an 11-1 jury verdict. In 2001, his conviction was reversed due to prosecutorial misconduct, and his charges were dismissed in 2003.

 

Robert Hammons spent more than six years in prison for the robbery of a pharmacy in Slidell, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict despite the fact that he had strong alibi evidence that he was in Alabama at the time of the crime. 

Travis Hayes spent nine years, eight months and 15 days in prison for a murder he did not commit. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict in which only one of the jurors was Black. After exhaustive DNA testing by the State on all the gunman’s clothing failed to show any link to Mr. Hayes or his co-defendant Ryan Matthews, Mr. Hayes was exonerated in 2007.

Willie Jackson spent 17 years in prison for a sexual assault that took place in Marrero, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict. He was cleared by DNA testing in 2004. 

Michael Shannon spent 14 years in prison for a murder in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict. He was exonerated in 2018.

Kia Stewart spent nine years, eight months and six days in prison for a murder in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was 17 years old, and as he was arrested three weeks before Hurricane Katrina, he suffered enormously in the Orleans Parish Prison, along with other inmates. The jury deliberated for just over one hour, and two jurors voted not guilty. He was exonerated in April 2015.

Archie Williams served 36 years in prison for rape and attempted murder in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 11-1 jury. He was exonerated by the Innocence Project with help from IPNO in 2018 after fingerprint evidence pointed to a serial rapist as the real perpetrator.

Royal Clark spent 17 years, four months and 14 days in prison for an armed robbery in Terrytown, Louisiana. He was convicted by a 10-2 jury before IPNO exonerated him in 2019 based on fingerprint evidence that pointed to the real perpetrator.

About Innocence Project New Orleans

Founded in 2001, Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) represents innocent, life-sentenced prisoners in Louisiana and Mississippi at no cost to them or their loved ones. IPNO also supports their living well and fully in the world and advocates for sensible criminal justice policies that reduce wrongful convictions.

 

About Innocence Project

The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

 

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