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Louisiana only requires 10 of 12 jurors to agree on most felonies

Every so often, one of Louisiana's criminal laws is challenged in connection with a case. For instance, the state only requires 10 out of 12 jurors to agree to convict in most felony cases. Unless an accused individual faces the death penalty, a unanimous verdict is not required if he or she is on trial for felonies committed in the state -- even if the individual faces life in prison.

Many people have attempted to challenge the law over the years, but that did not stop one individual from filing yet another challenge to it. The case made headlines because of the level of detail and the fact that a hearing was held on it. Prosecutors urged the judge not to entertain the request.

The only other state in the union besides Louisiana that has such a law is Oregon. When it was challenged in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, ruling that it did not violate an individual's civil rights. Challenges since that decision have failed. As recently as 2009, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the law by overturning the decision that two people accused of second-degree murder deserved the right to unanimous verdicts in their cases.

Many people might be under the impression that when it comes to felonies, juries must be unanimous here in Louisiana, but that is not true. This law affects how a criminal defense attorney views a case and any defense put forth on behalf of an individual. If this particular challenge moves beyond the trial court, those same attorneys will more than likely be keeping a close eye on its progress. In the meantime, anyone who is facing felonies needs to understand the current law, along with how it could affect his or her case.

Source:, "Louisiana's non-unanimous jury system assailed as racially motivated", Jim Mustian, Feb. 8, 2017

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