Supreme Court Decision Decides that Federal and State Jury Verdicts Must Be Unanimous

Last week, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Louisiana v. Ramos. Louisiana is one of two states (the other being Oregon) that do not require unanimous verdicts in criminal jury trials. In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was found guilty of second degree murder by a jury that voted 10-2 to convict. On appeal, Ramos argued that the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires an unanimous jury verdict in federal courts and that the Fourteenth Amendment extended that right to all state court trials. The Supreme Court agreed with Ramos, overturning a 1972 Supreme Court case that had allowed Louisiana to continue its practice of convictions without unanimous juries.

What was not mentioned in the Court’s discussion of the Sixth Amendment requirement for unanimous verdicts was the military court-martial system. While the fraction of votes required to convict has recently changed with the adoption of the changes mandated by the 2016 Military Justice Act, court-martial verdicts are only required to be unanimous in capital offenses where the death penalty is sought. Despite the ruling in Ramos, military appellants will likely have difficulty invalidating the current court-martial system. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to jury trials does not apply to the military justice system. Ramos is a step in the right direction, however, and contains language that military justice practitioners can use in challenging the court-martial system.

If you or your loved one was convicted of an offense at court-martial, you need someone with experience who knows the most current law. I have argued numerous issues in front of appellate courts and CAAF. I have the experience you need. Please contact Bill Cassara at (706) 860-5769 for a free consultation.

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William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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