Non-unanimous jury verdict bills moved out Criminal Justice committee

After business was done in the Louisiana House and the representatives started trickling away late Wednesday, a cabal of Democratic members asked to change the committees to which a handful of bills were assigned for review.

Four of the five bills seeking to be moved from the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice to the House Judiciary Committee involved handling the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that non-unanimous jury verdicts were unconstitutional.

On close votes, two of the four jury verdict measures were moved, two were refused. One bill, dealing with victim reparations, also was moved to Judiciary.

“I was surprised that it got the level of push back that it did,” said Rep. Randal L. Gaines, who sponsored the main measure on dealing with the 1,500 inmates who remain in prison after the high court’s decision.

A few weeks ago, when the bills were read into the record, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, assigned them to the Criminal Justice committee, which has 10 Republicans, two Democrats and one without party affiliation.

Under the rules, a legislator can object to the assignment at that moment, said Rep. Matthew Willard, the New Orleans Democrat whose House Bill 577 would automatically require Louisiana law to comply with U.S. Supreme Court decisions, going forward and retroactively, which would free lawmakers from having to make uncomfortable votes.

The required task of assigning bills to committees is raced through while legislators chat amongst themselves. Willard said he couldn’t react fast enough to object – Schexnayder had already moved on another bill – so needed permission of the full House to move the bill to another committee.

With only 71 of the 104 members still in the chamber on Wednesday night, Willard’s request was refused on a vote of 32 to 39. Thirty-three representatives were absent.

The House also voted against moving House Bill 271, sponsored by Democratic New Orleans Rep. Jason Hughes. HB271 proposes to include non-unanimous jury verdicts among the grounds on which an inmate can apply for post-conviction relief. With a 38-38 vote, the measure will remain to be considered by the Criminal Justice committee.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 4, 2020, in Ramos v. Louisiana, non-unanimous jury verdicts were … Continue Reading Full Story >>>

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