At a Glance
Post-conviction relief petitions challenging Mr. Henry and Mr. Allen's convictions by non-unanimous juries under the Supreme Court's decision in Ramos v. Louisiana were filed on April 12, 2021.
Promise of Justice Initiative
William P. Quigley of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Rufus Henry and Matthew Allen were both convicted of murder in the second degree by non-unanimous juries and sentenced to life in prison following trials in which they argued that they acted in self-defense. In both cases, the two dissenting jurors, like Mr. Henry and Mr. Allen, were Black, and the other ten jurors who voted to convict were white. The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing Mr. Henry and Mr. Allen in their post-conviction relief petitions, arguing that their non-unanimous jury convictions are unconstitutional.
For well over a century, Louisiana was one of only two states permitting criminal convictions by non-unanimous juries, meaning that people could be convicted and serve long sentences over the dissent of members of the jury issuing their verdicts. Established by white supremacists at an 1898 Constitutional Convention with the intention to maintain the subjugation of Black Louisianans, non-unanimous juries have cemented Louisiana's position as the state with the highest rate of incarceration and most wrongful convictions per capita in the Deep South. By overriding the criminal trial votes of Black jurors, non-unanimous jury verdicts have also maintained disproportionately high rates of incarceration of Black people in Louisiana.
In 2018, 64 percent of Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2, which abolished non-unanimous jury convictions for future felony cases but did not assist those previously convicted. Then, on April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Ramos v. Louisiana that the Sixth Amendment right to a unanimous jury applies in both federal and state courts. The Supreme Court is currently deciding Edwards v. Vannoy, a case that would establish whether the decision in Ramos is retroactive.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has partnered with the Promise of Justice Initiative in its Jim Crow Juries Project, joining over 700 lawyers across the U.S. to bring justice to the more than 1000 people convicted by non-unanimous juries who are still incarcerated in Louisiana. As a companion to the case, HB 346 has been introduced in the Louisiana State Legislature to set up a process to review these convictions.