WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court
ruled Monday that prisoners convicted by non-unanimous juries before the high court prohibited the practice a year ago do not need to be retried.
The justices ruled 6-3 along conservative-liberal lines that prisoners whose cases had concluded before the justices' 2020 ruling should not benefit from it. The decision affects prisoners convicted in Louisiana, Oregon, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which were among the few places that allowed criminal convictions based on divided jury votes
For the conservative majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the court's "well-established retroactivity doctrine" led to the conclusion that the decision is not retroactive.
In a dissent joined by her two liberal colleagues, Justice Elena Kagan stated that the ruling will leave “those convicted under rules found not to produce fair and reliable verdicts without recourse in federal courts for the first time in many decades.”
During arguments in the case in December, which were held over the phone due to the coronavirus pandemic
, the justices were told that a ruling in favor of the prisoners could result in retrials for 1,000 to 1,600 people
in Louisiana alone. States and the Trump
administration had urged the court not to give more prisoners the benefit of the ruling, saying doing so would be “massively disruptive” in both Lousiana and Mississippi
As a result of the high court's 2020 decision, juries everywhere must vote unanimously to convict; however, that decision only applied to future cases and cases in which defendants were still appealing their convictions when the high court ruled; the question the high court was answering in the current case was whether the decision should be made retroactive to cases that were final before the ruling.
Several justices emphasized during arguments the extremely high bar that previous cases have set for making similar new rules retroactive.
Thedrick Edwards, a Louisiana prisoner, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury convicted him of rape
and multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. The jury split 10-2 on most of the robbery charges and 11-1 on the remaining charges.
Edwards v. Vannoy
is the case number (19-5807).