Did Outdated Laws in Louisiana Help Convict an Innocent Man?

In Louisiana, non-unanimous juries are capable to convict an individual of a felony, thanks to a law that legal industry experts simply call out-of-date and likely perilous.

Photograph of Troy Rhodes supplied by the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Heart

Such is the situation of Troy Rhodes, a 37-12 months- aged African-American person who was convicted by a 10-2 jury verdict in New Orleans for armed theft and attempted murder and despatched to jail for 149 decades for two crimes he may possibly not have dedicated.

“Louisiana’s jury law just has no area in the contemporary legal justice procedure,” said Pamela R. Metzger, inaugural director of the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Heart at SMU School of Law, in an interview with The Crime Report.

Metzger reported that non-unanimous juries ended up established about 120 decades ago to make sure a white the greater part on juries.

“We as a modern society must want each one eyewitness situation in which there was a non unanimous jury to be re-evaluated,” she reported.

Considerably, Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states in the nation with the law on their books.

But in early April, the Louisiana condition senate superior a invoice that would have to have unanimous juries for all convictions in felony trials. The fate of the evaluate has moved to the House, where by Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, has submitted an identical invoice. Need to the proposal go to voters and be authorized, it would have to have unanimity commencing Jan. 1, 2019.

However for Rhodes, the questionable jury was not the only barrier.

The witness, who was the only eyewitness in the situation, identified Rhodes as the perpetrator, but was below medicine when he built the identification. However the general public defender by no means confronted the witness with his professional medical records or asked for his professional medical records to be shown to the jury.

Why? Since the general public defender wasn’t in the posture to do the operate that should’ve been accomplished, reported Metzger.

General public defenders in 2003 (the 12 months of Rhodes’ trial) ended up understaffed, underpaid, and below-resourced, and it wasn’t until soon after hurricane Katrina hit in 2007 that the general public defender procedure was revamped, she reported.

Regrettably for Rhodes, his general public defender was overworked and below- resourced, developing complications all through the trial.

For instance, the singe eye witness was a white person, which raises thoughts about cross-racial evaluation, but the general public defender did not deliver this problem to the notice of the jury.

Therefore, Rhodes discovered himself in the center of what Metzger calls “a excellent storm” of injustice because of to regulations in Louisiana that actively worked against him, as very well as complications with witness identification, and an underfunded general public defender.

Troy Rhodes’ son wrote a letter to the decide inquiring for his “paw to occur home.” Impression from court docket documents

This “perfect storm” of injustice led the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Heart at SMU Law School to get on Rhodes situation when Metzger became the Center’s Director, and Tuesday early morning, they introduced that they would be searching for the launch of Troy Rhodes in a situation that “amplifies the want for justice reform.”

Now, the power lies in the arms of Orleans Parish District Lawyer Leon Cannizzaro to overturn Rhodes’ conviction.

Photograph of Troy Rhodes and his family

“This situation offers an opportunity for the DA to experience forward”, reported Metzger. “To admit what we know about most effective tactics about identification and trials. It is an opportunity for him to do the proper issue in a way that he might not have experienced normally.”

Rhodes, whilst ready in jail, obtained a 4-12 months diploma in Christian Ministry and a specialized certificate in the culinary arts. He has also obtained the greatest amount of trust in the jail and is now a minister in the west jail garden, where by he assists to manage conflicts with other prisoners.

His family eagerly awaits his homecoming.

Megan Hadley is a team reporter for The Crime Report.

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