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Supreme Court hears argument on right to unanimous jury verdict for retroactive convictions
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Supreme Court hears argument on right to unanimous jury verdict for retroactive convictions

The US Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in Edwards v. Vannoy on whether the Supreme Court’s prior decision in Ramos v. Louisiana applies retroactively to cases on federal collateral review.

The Supreme Court held in Ramos earlier this year that criminal defendants have a right to a unanimous jury verdict in state criminal trials under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution. Previously, criminal defendants had a right to unanimous jury verdicts only in federal criminal trials. The Supreme Court further held that the Sixth Amendment will be incorporated to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.

Petitioner Edwards argued that detectives questioned him without an attorney present, forced a confession from him, and that there were numerous constitutional violations at trial. The jury convicted Edwards for robberies and a rape that occurred in 2006. The jury came out with a non-unanimous verdict, with the only African American juror voting to acquit Edwards.

Respondent, the Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, argues that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) limits the powers of federal courts to overturn state criminal proceedings. Respondent further argues that under AEDPA, the convictions should remain because when Edwards convictions became final, non-unanimous jury verdicts were constitutional.