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Louisiana Supreme Court & Legislature consider non-unanimous verdicts

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana law now requires that criminal juries are unanimous to return a verdict. Otherwise it’s a hung jury and a mistrial.

The question has remained: What happens to those sitting in jail now who were convicted by a split jury before unanimous juries were required?

The State Supreme Court took up the issue Tuesday afternoon and there is at least one bill pending in the legislature that would affect those convicted by a non-unanimous jury.

Daniel Gueringer was only 20 years old when he was shot at a Fourth of July party in Lake Charles, in 2009. Bryce Perkins is serving a life sentence in Angola after a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. The vote was 10-2.

Even though thirteen years have passed, the heartbreak remains for Daniel’s parents Sandra and Bill. They imagine what might have been.

“Whenever you hear about some of his friends getting married and having children, you always think, what if Daniel were still alive. Would we have grandchildren?” Bill said.

Sandra said if suspects convicted in cases, such as her son’s, get a remedy or reconsideration of their conviction, families like theirs will suffer.

“Every time we’ve had to go to court, every time we’ve had to read about what happened back in 2009 to our son, we lose sleep. It brings it all back, makes your heart ache all over again. Not that we don’t ache every day because when you lose a child you hurt every day,” she said.

However local appellate chief public defender King Alexander said those in prison due to split verdicts should get a remedy.

“It’s acknowledged by all that their trials were unconstitutional trials,” he said.

The Louisiana Supreme Court is considering the issue. And there’s a bill pending in the legislatures that would allow such cases to go before a special committee on parole.

“Right now, there is no remedy, and that bill gives a remedy. But for those who are not released and remain incarcerated for an unconstitutional trial, I think those people should get new trials,” Alexander said.

Criminal justice reform advocates said if they’re successful in their Supreme Court argument, It could affect the convictions of about 1500 people.

No word on when the State Supreme Court might release a ruling.

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