Supreme Court to mull challenge to convictions under “racist Jim Crow” jury laws


Jerome Morgan was imprisoned for second-degree murder in 1994 after 10 out of 12 jurors voted to convict him. The two jurors who wanted to acquit Morgan were the Louisiana jury’s lone Black members — and they were right.

The then-17-year-old was at a New Orleans birthday party in 1993 and hid when gunshots rang out, before helping save the life of a victim who later testified in Morgan’s defense. Still, it would be nearly 20 years before the Innocence Project discovered evidence that led to Morgan’s exoneration in the murder of a 16-year-old who died in the shooting.

The Supreme Court ruled in April that laws allowing for felony convictions based on non-unanimous juries are in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the 6-3 majority opinion that non-unanimous jury laws in Louisiana were designed to render Black juror service “meaningless.” In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the laws originated as “a pillar of a comprehensive and brutal program of racist Jim Crow measures against African Americans.”

Morgan, now 44, said the finding would have prevented his conviction, and lawyers set to argue in a separate case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it’s time to afford the right to a new trial to hundreds of people still imprisoned on non-unanimous jury convictions in Louisiana and Oregon, the last two states to have had such laws.

“Had that law been corrected back in 1993, I would’ve never got convicted and ended up wasting 20 years of my life,” Morgan told CBS News. “We have a lot of racist laws here in Louisiana that should have been corrected long ago and it burns at you.”