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Law School Case Brief

Ramos v. Louisiana - 206 L.Ed.2d 583 (U.S. 2020)

Rule:

The Sixth Amendment requires unanimity. A defendant enjoys a constitutional right to demand that his liberty should not be taken from him except by the joint action of the court and the unanimous verdict of a jury of 12 persons. The Sixth Amendment affords a right to a trial by jury as understood and applied at common law, including all the essential elements as they were recognized in this country and England when the Constitution was adopted. This includes a requirement that the verdict should be unanimous. 

Facts:

In 48 States and federal court, a single juror’s vote to acquit is enough to prevent a conviction. But two States, Louisiana and Oregon, have long punished people based on 10-to-2 verdicts. In this case, petitioner Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of a serious crime in a Louisiana court by a 10-to-2 jury verdict. Instead of the mistrial he would have received almost anywhere else, Ramos was sentenced to life without parole. He contests his conviction by a non-unanimous jury as an unconstitutional denial of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The United States Supreme Court granted Ramos' petition for certiorari review.

Issue:

Was Ramos’ conviction by a non-unanimous jury a denial of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of conviction, holding that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, as incorporated against the States by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, required a unanimous verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense. At the time of the Sixth Amendment’s adoption, the right to trial by jury included a right to a unanimous verdict, and it was not the court's role to reassess whether the right to a unanimous jury was important enough to retain.

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