‘Ten Angry Men’ can no longer send you to prison

After Monday’s decision, no state will be able to convict people of serious crimes by less than unanimous juries.

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Opinion

April 22, 2020 - 8:54 AM

The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., as seen on September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Slinger

Most Americans — including those who have seen the film “12 Angry Men” — probably assumed that the U.S. Constitution requires that juries be unanimous in order to convict someone of a major crime. But that wasn’t true until Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court, reversing a shaky precedent, ruled that unanimity is required in state as well as federal courts.

The court ruled in favor of Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted in 2016 by a 10-2 vote in the murder of a woman whose body was found in a New Orleans trash can. Louisiana now requires unanimous jury verdicts for serious crimes, but Oregon continues to allow non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. After Monday’s decision, no state will be able to convict people of serious crimes by less than unanimous juries.

Given that only one state now allows non-unanimous verdicts, the court’s decision might not seem all that momentous.

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