Defendant’s Challenge of Louisiana’s Non-Unanimous Jury Verdict Denied

Posted on Feb 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

New Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter has denied a challenge to the constitutionality of Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury scheme by an accused murderer.  Christopher Lee, 26, had been charged with murdering Chad Huth, who was killed in a home invasion in 2010. He submitted a request to Hunter that jurors reach a unanimous decision for the murder retrial, which was subsequently denied by the district court judge.

Louisiana law requires that only 10 of 12 jurors concur in felony cases aside from those seeking the death penalty.  Lee had tried to argue that his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated under the state’s current system.

Louisiana is one of two states, along with Oregon, that allow majority verdicts of 10-2 or greater in some criminal cases.  Originally the state’s majority verdict scheme required a 9-3 vote but was changed in 1974 to 10-2, which some critics cite as a means for whites to override minority jurors.

Orleans Public Defenders attorney Colin Reingold backed an argument insisting that Louisiana’s system stemmed from racial undercurrents and violated the defendant’s equal protection rights.

Denying Lee’s motion, Hunter wrote, “Lee has failed to meet the burden necessary to declare the laws establishing Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury scheme unconstitutional. To meet this burden, a defendant must bring more than an educated hypothesis and reasoned conclusion.”

Lee’s first trial on March ended in a 6-6 deadlock among the eight white jurors and four black jurors. Three of the four black jurors voted in favor of convicting Lee.  A retrial is scheduled for April 17th to determine Lee’s culpability on charges of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and aggravated burglary.

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