Supreme Court issues decision in Ramos v. Louisiana

On April 20, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial—as incorporated against the States by way of the Fourteenth Amendment—requires a unanimous verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense.  Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U.S. ___ (April 20, 2020).  The petitioner in the case, Evangelisto Ramos, was convicted of a serious crime in Louisiana by a vote of 10-2.  He received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  At the time of Ramos's trial, only Louisiana and Oregon allowed for conviction of a serious felony by a non-unanimous jury; all other states and the federal government required jury unanimity for such a conviction.  Louisiana and Oregon had adopted their non-unanimity rules in 1898 and during the 1930's, respectively, in an effort to dilute or eliminate the influence of African-American and other minority jurors.  But at the time the Sixth Amendment was adopted, the requirement of juror unanimity was considered a part of the right to trial by an impartial jury. The Supreme Court was entrusted to preserve and protect that rule and could not engage in a cost-benefit analysis in an effort to determine whether the unanimity requirement was important enought to retain.