The conservative approach to criminal justice:
fighting crime, supporting victims, and protecting taxpayers.

In Louisiana, A New Voter-Approved Initiative Requires Unanimous Juries in Criminal Trials

| November 7, 2018

Last weekend we turned our clocks back one hour.  We moved back in time for a brief moment.  Today, in Louisiana, we have moved our “clocks” forward to a time closer to achieving reforms in our criminal justice system, with Louisiana voters resoundingly passing an initiative requiring unanimous juries for criminal trials.

John Adams, founding father of the United States, wrote, “It’s the unanimity of the Jury that preserves the rights of mankind.”  The same rights our State Constitution aims to protect – life, liberty and property.

The beginning to the preamble to the Louisiana State Constitution reads, “We, the people of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political, economic, and religious liberties we enjoy, and desiring to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property; afford opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; assure equality of rights”

There is a good reason why such a diverse group of organizations and people came together to change the split-jury rule.  In 1880, over one-hundred and thirty-eighty years ago Louisiana Lawmakers passed the split-jury rule and would later in 1898 formally enter it into the Louisiana Constitution.  Sadly, the split-jury rule may have been created out of fear on how formerly released slaves would vote on juries.

With the momentum of the 2017 JRI reforms, Senator J.P. Morrell of New Orleans introduced SB 243 challenging the split-jury rule in 2018. This bill eventually led to the issue being placed on the ballot as constitutional amendment #2.

On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Louisiana voters reversed the split-jury rule (64% voting yes)   and now Louisiana joins all other states except Oregon in requiring unanimous jury verdicts on all felony offenses.  Unanimous jury verdicts should allow for more debate and discussion among jurors, allow for dissenting jurors voices to be heard, ensure due process and ensure that the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt has been met.

The people of Louisiana are a people who cherish our founding fathers’ vision “that all men are created equal.”  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights worth coming together as one for, to ensure they are available to all.


SCOTT PEYTON is Right on Crime’s state director for Louisiana.

Scott has over twelve years of work experience with the State of Louisiana: first as a Child Welfare Specialist, then as a Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer, and prior to joining Right on Crime he worked in Adult Probation and Parole as a Specialist supervising violent offender caseloads. Scott has spent time as both a volunteer and reserve Deputy Sheriff, as well as providing, as needed, support to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center working as a correctional officer.  He also holds an instructor certification from Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T) and has taught at the Probation and Parole Police Academy. Scott has witnessed first-hand the need for criminal justice reform, the impacts of rehabilitation and re-entry programs, and the inner workings of the Louisiana Probation and Parole system.

Scott trained as a medic in the Louisiana National Guard before being honorably discharged in 1991. He graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a BS in Criminal Justice in 1992. Scott is an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church, and resides in Louisiana with his wife and six children.