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Should jury convictions be unanimous? and other questions head to Louisiana voters Nov. 6

Should jury convictions be unanimous? and other questions head to Louisiana voters Nov. 6
Senator J.P. Morrell

Senator J.P. Morrell

Like the rest of the nation, Louisiana voters will head to the polls November 6 for mid-term elections. But, here, voters will also decide on six constitutional amendments including one that has garnered national attention from criminal justice activists, entertainers, and legal organizations. It is the question of if  jury convictions be unanimous?

Clearly one of the most discussed political and legal policies of the recent legislature, the non-unanimous juries were proven to vestiges of Jim Crow policies that unfairly lead to mass incarceration and voter suppression statewide.  Originally a senate bill  authored by Senator. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans), the law goes to vote in November. Voters will decide the fate of a new law and change in the constitution to require juries in felony cases to reach a unanimous verdict. Right now, only 10 of 12 jurors are needed, even on some murder cases.

Angela Allen-Bell

Angela Allen-Bell

“We are sending people to prison (for felonies) routinely without the unanimous vote of 12,” law professor Angela Allen-Bell told Eric Hatfield and Perry Daniels, hosts of Louisiana All American Sports Show on WYBR 96.9FM. “This is historic. This is important. This is going to be the greatest piece of criminal justice legislature to impact any of us in our lives because of the far-reaching effects of this.” She started public discussion on the topic in 2015 at Southern University Law Center. Allen-Bell, a legal analyst, said the damage of the unjust, non-unanimous jury law is extensive.

In two months, voters will also decide if convicted felons can be allowed to run for office, if certain funds can be used for traffic control, and if increased property taxes be phased in. Here are the amendments as they will appear at the polls:

Proposed Amendment No. 1 : Act 719 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to add Article I, Section 10.1 to the Louisiana Constitution.

 “Do you support an amendment to prohibit a convicted felon from seeking or holding public office or appointment within five years of completion of his sentence unless he is pardoned?”

Proposed Amendment No. 2: Act 722 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to amend Article I, Section 17(A) of the Louisiana Constitution.

 “Do you support an amendment to require a unanimous jury verdict in all noncapital felony cases for offenses that are committed on or after January 1, 2019?”

Proposed Amendment No. 3:  Act 717 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to amend Article VII, Section 14(B) of the Louisiana Constitution.

“Do you support an amendment to permit, pursuant to written agreement, the donation of the use of public equipment and personnel by a political subdivision upon request to another political subdivision for an activity or function which the requesting political subdivision is authorized to exercise?”

Proposed Amendment No. 4: Act 720 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to amend Article VII, Section 27(B)(1) of the Louisiana Constitution.

“Do you support an amendment to remove authority to appropriate or dedicate monies in the Transportation Trust Fund to state police for traffic control purposes?”

Proposed Amendment No. 5:  Act 721 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to add Article VII, Sections 18(G)(6), 21(K)(4) and (M)(4) of the Louisiana Constitution.

“Do you support an amendment to extend eligibility for the following special property tax treatments to property in trust: the special assessment level for property tax valuation, the property tax exemption for property of a disabled veteran, and the property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a person who died while performing their duties as a first responder, active duty member of the military, or law enforcement or fire protection officer?”

Proposed Amendment No. 6: Act 718 of the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to amend Article VII, Section 18(A) and (F) of the Louisiana Constitution.

“Do you support an amendment that will require that any reappraisal of the value of residential property by more than 50%, resulting in a corresponding increase in property taxes, be phased-in over the course of four years during which time no additional reappraisal can occur and that the decrease in the total ad valorem tax collected as a result of the phase-in of assessed valuation be absorbed by the taxing authority and not allocated to the other taxpayers?”

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