6th Amendment – Bill Of Rights – United States Constitution
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
14th Amendment – Section 1
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
All around Louisiana scumbag, Evangelisto Ramos allegedly murdered someone. He went to trial, and opted for a jury. Ten of the jurors thought he was guilty AF, but two weren’t so convinced. However, in Louisiana, you don’t need to convince all twelve jurors, ten will do just fine.
So Ramos appealed, citing the 6th amendment, which says nothing about unanimous decisions, somehow alludes to the notion that decisions must be unanimous. The appeals court told Ramos to get fucked. And the Supreme Court of Louisiana told him they didn’t even have time to listen to his bullshit. SCOTUS on the other hand seemed bored, and were happy to have a listen.
His argument is based on 1972’s Apodaca v. Oregon where SCOTUS decided that while the 6th amendment guarantees the people a right to trial by jury, and that federal jury trials require a unanimous jury verdict, such a unanimity verdict requirement does not apply to the states. They need only be a trial by jury.
Ramos’ team argues that if it’s good enough for federal courts, it’s good enough for the state courts too, and wants that decision overturned.
In a 6-3 non-partisan majority, SCOTUS sided with Ramos. They decided that the 6th amendment effectively ensures a guilty verdict must be unanimous, whether it be in federal or state court, doesn’t matter. That the courts should ultimately be consistent in this.
So this decision reverses SCOTUS’ previous decision in Apodaca, and therefore creates a new and contrary precedent. Doing so goes against a principle SCOTUS likes to adhere to called “stare decisis,” the idea that once the court rules on something, they set a precedent that should be consistently applied going forward.
The reason for stare decisis is that the law shouldn’t be a constantly changing thing, merely an evolving thing. That citizens shouldn’t be innocent/acquitted one day of something, but then someone else does the same thing, and is found guilty the next day. You can imagine it would leave all of us wondering whether we’re going to jail or not on an issue where the courts seem to change their mind all the time. No es bueno.
So what does all this mean? Well, it potentially means the people in jail, on a non-unanimous decision, are either going to have to be retried, since their verdicts will now be deemed a mistrial, presumably. Or, they are just probably going to go free now.
Hear oral arguments, read the ruling, and get a synopsis of the case here.