Argument Date: October 7, 2019

Issue(s) in the Case: 

The first ten Amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, are directly applicable to actions by the federal government. Most of the Bill of Rights has been made applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires due process in action by states, such as criminal trials. The legal theory of applying provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment is referred to as “incorporation.”


The question in this case is whether the Sixth Amendment’s requirement of a unanimous jury verdict to convict a person of a crime applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.



After the Civil War, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to protect the rights of newly freed African Americans. One of the most important rights protected by these provisions was the right to serve on a jury.[1] Theoretically, this right would help to underscore the citizenship of African Americans and mitigate racial discrimination in jury selection. Because of its long understood significance,[2] the right to a jury trial was explicitly protected by state constitutions in 36 out of the 37 states in 1868, the year that the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.[3] There is evidence from the period following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment that the Sixth Amendment’s unanimity requirement was always intended to be incorporated against the states.[4] In fact, throughout the 18th century, the right to a unanimous jury was the accepted rule in the United States.[5]


Despite this history, in 1898, White Louisianans convened a constitutional convention and ratified a non-unanimous jury provision. There is overwhelming evidence that Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury provision was enacted with discriminatory intent and was designed to facilitate White jurors being able to convict Black defendants over the dissent of Black jurors.[6] Non-unanimous juries effectively exclude the Black jurors who sit on them, as their voices—which are much more likely to be dissenting than White jurors—are diluted on majority-White juries.[7] The effective exclusion of the votes of Black jurors when non-unanimous juries are allowed to convict persons of a crime not only denies a core right of citizenship to jurors whose votes are ignored, but also impairs fair access to justice to both defendants and victims.[8] In 2018, Louisianans voted to remove the non-unanimous jury provision from their constitution.[9] The constitutional amendment does not, however, provide retroactive relief for those convicted under the discriminatory non-unanimous jury system created by the state in 1898.[10]


In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of second-degree murder in Louisiana by ten members of a twelve-person jury.[11] In his appeal, which took place prior to the 2018 constitutional amendment, Mr. Ramos contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion to require a unanimous jury verdict.[12] In affirming Mr. Ramos’s conviction, the Louisiana appellate court relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Apodaca v. Oregon, in which the Supreme Court refused to incorporate the Sixth Amendment’s unanimity requirement in claims against the states and held that non-unanimous state jury verdicts are constitutional.[13]

Key Issues: 

Mr. Ramos’s case relates to two decisions from Supreme Court’s October Term 2018: (1) Flowers v. Mississippi, concerning racial discrimination in jury selection; and (2) Timbs v. Indiana, which applied the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. This case presents an opportunity for the Court to revisit its decision in Apodaca where it did not grapple with the racist history of Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury provision. Last term in Timbs, however, the Court held that courts must reckon with the historical context of the Fourteenth Amendment when deciding incorporation questions.[14]



Importance as a Matter of Civil Rights: 

The Sixth Amendment’s right to a unanimous jury verdict to convict should apply to the states. LDF filed an amicus brief in this case, arguing that: (1) the history and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment compel the incorporation of the Sixth Amendment right to a unanimous jury trial; (2) as reflected in the official record from Louisiana’s Constitutional Convention in 1898, Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury provision was designed to nullify Black jury service; and (3) the discriminatory design of Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury provision persisted as intended by the drafters of the provision. Our brief also amplifies the voices of two Black Louisianans who recently served as jurors, illustrating the point that Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury provision continues to give White jurors enhanced power while disempowering Black jurors.

[1] Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 155 (1968) (“The guarantees of jury trial . . . reflect a profound judgment about the way in which law should be enforced and justice administered.”); see also Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, The Jury as Constitutional Identity, 47 U.C. Davis. L. Rev. 1105, 1121 (2014),

[2] Equal Justice Initiative, Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection: A Continuing Legacy 9 (2010),

[3] Steven G. Calabresi & Sarah E. Agudo, Individual Rights Under State Constitutions When the Fourteenth Amendment Was Ratified in 1868: What Rights Are Deeply Rooted in American History and Tradition?, 87 Tex. L. Rev. 7, 77 (2008),

[4] Brief of Amicus Curiae NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. in Support of Petitioner at 10, Ramos v. Louisiana, 139 S. Ct. 1318 (June 18, 2019) (No. 18-5924); see also Brief of Law Professors and Social Scientists As Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner, Ramos v. Louisiana, 139 S. Ct. 1318 (Jun. 18, 2019) (No. 18-5924),

[5] See Apodaca v. Oregon, 406 U.S. 404, 408 n.3 (1972). The Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimous jury verdicts in federal criminal cases. See id. at 404.

[6] Brief of Amicus Curiae NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Ramos, supra note 4, at 11.

[7] Thomas Ward Frampton, The Jim Crow Jury, 71 Vand. L. Rev. 1593, 1619 (2018)

[8] Id. at 1602-03.  

[9] German Lopez, Louisiana votes to eliminate Jim Crow jury law with Amendment 2, Vox (Nov. 6, 2018),

[10] Id.

[11] State of Louisiana v. Ramos, 231 So. 3d 44, 47 (La. Ct. App. 4 Cir. Nov. 2, 2017).

[12] Id. at 49.

[13] Id.

[14] Timbs v. Indiana, 139 S. Ct. 682, 689 (2019).