He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:8 NKJV
May 11, 2018
For most of Christian history, the church has taught the virtue of humility, recognizing that God actively resists the proud. Mercy has also been taught as an intuitive Christian response to human need that prompts us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit the prisoner, widow, and orphan in their affliction. But it's often the "justice" charge that causes so many to struggle. Why? Because human nature is either infatuated with power or intimidated by the powerful. Neither of these is permissible biblical responses. Still, organized religion opts to abandon the arena of justice rather than discharging the ambassadors' duty to speak truth to power.
It is with the "do justly" charge in mind that I bring to you a perspective to consider. Only two states in the U.S., Louisiana and Oregon, allow the conviction of a state felony offense without a unanimous jury vote to convict. I once had an elderly black pastor warn me, "the problem with justice is that it usually means just us!"
In 48 states and all federal courts, to convict of a felony by a criminal jury, all 12 jurors must agree. This unanimous agreement is thought to demonstrate that the state has made its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But in Louisiana, you can be found guilty if 10 of 12 jurors vote to convict.
Historically, from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 until 1880, we required unanimous criminal jury verdicts just like every other state. However, in 1880, legislation adopting non-unanimous juries was signed into law and in 1898 it was codified into the state constitution.
Why is unanimity so important? The resolve of the jury is thought essential to protect the right to trial by jury enjoyed under the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When a non-unanimous jury votes to convict, it's often because the 'not-guilty' votes favor a lesser charge or believe that reasonable doubt still exists and therefore, the state's responsibility to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt has not been demonstrated. Unanimity, arguably, protects citizens from wrongful convictions.
Opponents are correct in the assertion that courts have upheld non-unanimous juries as constitutional. The Louisiana Supreme court has upheld these non-unanimous jury verdicts and the U.S. Supreme Court has held that unanimous criminal jury verdicts are not required in state criminal trials. However, the framers of the Constitution clearly believed the constitutional right to trial by jury included unanimity. John Adams once said, "It's the unanimity of the jury that preserves the rights of mankind."
Equity in our criminal justice system may require that Louisiana finally embrace the same standard called for by the founders, 48 other states, and all federal courts. 138 years is long enough.
Louisiana juries deciding felony criminal cases would have to arrive at unanimous verdicts under a proposed constitutional amendment that will come up for a vote on Monday. If the House passes SB243 by Senator J.P. Morrell, the proposal would appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. For more insight, see this article by Jeremy Alford.
LFF is often opposed philosophically to Sen J.P. Morell's bills, however, on this issue, he is correct to right the mistake enacted 138 years ago!
Harrah's Conflict of Interest?
On the gambling front, it appears that the Harrah's Casino contract extension deal is in jeopardy. Advocate Capitol reporter, Tyler Bridges raises important questions about HB553 and WVUE reporter, Lee Zurik, filed this investigative report. LFF has been warning that this deal is a bad bet for Louisiana – we are glad that these details have been uncovered so that the allegations of conflicts can be examined.
Our prayers go to the family of Mr. Lawrence Player who went to be with the Lord this past Tuesday after a brief illness. Lawrence and Varrie, his wife of 83 years, were LFF's Longest Married Couple for the past three years. (Mrs. Varrie passed away 3 weeks ago.) Their family will continue to inspire us all.
- HB91 by Rep. Thibaut - Increases racetrack casino gaming capacity -FAILED ON SENATE FLOOR
- HB273 by Rep. Hoffmann - Dignified treatment of human remains after an abortion - PASSED SENATE
- HB387 by Rep. Edmonds – revises Parents' bill of rights for public schools - PASSED SENATE
- HB891 by Rep. Hoffmann - Prohibitions against abortion providers receiving public funds - PASSED SENATE
- HB650 by Rep. Foil - 529 plan for K-12. - PASSED SENATE EDUCATION
- HB830 by Rep. Stokes – age and work status verification for workers in sexually-oriented businesses - PASSED SENATE LABOR
- SB402 by Sen. Riser - volunteer security guards carry firearms in church - PASSED THE HOUSE
- SB335 by Sen. Mizell – fines and requirements for those who purchase commercial sex - PASSED HOUSE
- HCR27 by Rep. Pat Smith - Task Force dealing w/ women in prison, including transgender; denies the biological definition of "woman" - PASSED HOUSE AFTER ALL TRANSGENDER LANGUAGE REMOVED
- HCR71 by Rep. Edmonds - Requests the attorney general to file an amicus brief in federal court to support Mississippi in its law banning elective abortions after fifteen-weeks gestation - PASSED HOUSE
- SB534 by Sen. Milkovich - Creates crime of coerced abortion - PASSED HOUSE CRIMINAL JUSTICE
- SB166 by Sen. Thompson - Additional places for posting of human trafficking hotline - PASSED HOUSE
- SB224 by Sen. Barrow - Promotes "In God we Trust" in public schools - PASSED HOUSE
- SB250 by Sen. Mizell - Public schools to provide info to parents on dangers of porn - PASSED HOUSE
- SB325 by Sen. Milkovich - Increases abortion facilities regulations - PASSED THE SENATE
- SB512 By Sen. Gatti - allows school staff to participate in student-led prayer during school hours - PASSED HOUSE EDUCATION
- HB484 by Rep. Talbot - internet gambling on fantasy sports - PASSED SENATE
- HB500 by Rep. Abramson - A limited constitutional convention - FAILED HOUSE
- HB842 by Rep. Amedee - Requires daily recess for public school students grades K through 8 - FAILED HOUSE
Louisiana Family Forum
Calling all young Ambassadors — LFF Leadership Academy Coming in June — RSVP Today!