Louisiana’s history of over-convicting—and over-incarcerating—black people was built into the structure of its jury system. The stated mission of the 1898 Louisiana Constitutional Convention was to “perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana,” and a 2018 investigative report found that the non-unanimous jury rules designed by the convention—which allow for felony convictions with a split 10-2 decision—succeeded in doing just that.Andrew Cohen, “A Vestige of Bigotry,” The Marshall Project, September 25, 2017; Jeff Adelson, Gordon Russell, and John Simerman, “How an Abnormal Louisiana Law Deprives, Discriminates and Drives Incarceration: Tilting the Scales,” New Orleans Advocate, April 1, 2018; and German Lopez, “Louisiana Votes to Eliminate Jim Crow Jury Law with Amendment 2,” Vox, November 6, 2018.
In April, The Advocate of New Orleans analyzed 993 convictions rendered by 12-member Louisiana juries.Adelson, Russell, and Simerman, “Tilting the Scales,” 2018. Of these, 43 percent of convictions of black people were non-unanimous, versus 33 percent for white people.Adelson, Russell, and Simerman, “Tilting the Scales,” 2018. But in November, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2, a change to the state constitution that requires a unanimous jury verdict in felony trials effective January 1, 2019.German Lopez, “Louisiana Votes to Eliminate Jim Crow Jury Law,” 2018. 2018 also marks the first year that Louisiana is no longer “the most incarcerated state” in the country, in large part a result of reforms passed in 2017.Pew Charitable Trusts, Louisiana’s 2017 Criminal Justice Reforms (Philadelphia, PA: Pew Charitable Trusts, 2018). Legislative attempts to roll back these reforms—one aimed at lengthening the amount of time people spend on probation and parole and another limiting the award of “earned compliance credits” that can shorten probation or parole terms—failed.Louisiana HB 195 (2018).