Unanimous Is Not Enough

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Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown signed this petition

We, the undersigned, unite with the demand by Louisiana United International (LUI) for the
immediate release of the thousands of African men and women held in Louisiana state prisons
due to incarceration under the previous law that allowed felony conviction with less than
unanimous vote by a 12 person jury.
From 1880 until 1973 the state of Louisiana only required a jury vote of 9-3 for felony
conviction instead of the unanimous 12 votes traditionally required of U.S. juries.
After the U.S. Civil War and the Reconstruction period that followed, as defeated southern
states were required to rebuild their governments to include participation from newly freed
Africans, white southern Democrats known as “ Redeemers” were working to reintroduce and
maintain the brutal subjugation of African people.
The ruling elite of the North and South all required the value of free African labor for recovery
of the post-civil war southern and U.S. capitalist economy and had a common interest in
keeping free African labor available after the 1865 formal abolition of slavery.
Hence the development of the 13 th Amendment to the U.S. constitution, widely accepted as the
amendment that ended U.S. enslavement of Africans. However, history and the Louisiana
United International clearly reveal that the 13th Amendment actually codified African
enslavement under another guise – prison!
The 13 th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution goes to the heart of the struggle being waged by
the LUI for the freedom of the thousands of black people held in Louisiana prisons. It is a
struggle with implications for all Africans in all U.S. prisons.
The LUI organization points out that it is the “exception” clause of the 13 th Amendment that re-
enslaves Africans in the Louisiana prison system, with these words:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except (emphasis added) as a punishment for crime
whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any
place subject to their jurisdiction.”
The prison system of the South and much of the United States was shaped by the dependence
of the U.S. economy on the free African labor that gave the U.S. a huge advantage over its
capitalist competitors in Europe.
After deals made by the Republicans and Democrats destroyed Reconstruction and unleashed
white terrorism, including the ku klux klan, to push Africans from any semblance of democratic
participation, the Redeemers re-imposed vicious and vindictive total white control over the
system that included the imposition of “convict leasing,” characterized by some as worse than
slavery.

The Redeemers understood that the 13 th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly
enslaved incarcerated individuals and, like white capitalists all over the South, initiated creative
methods to increase the state’s prison population with newly freed enslaved Africans for a huge
pool of free labor.
Imprisoned Africans became the property of the state under the convict leasing system and
were rented out to white people and companies that needed labor. The goal was to create
enough enslaved labor so that the railroads, plantation owners and other groups would once
again have access to profit-generating free labor.
This is the basis of Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury rule. Its role was to create a pseudo
democratic method for continuing slavery by ensuring mass imprisonment of Africans by
lowering the jury requirement for conviction. In 1880 the Louisiana state legislature determined
that juries no longer needed to reach a unanimous verdict for felony conviction. The new
burden would be 9 to 3 in favor of conviction.
This was three years after the 1877 end of Reconstruction, where a backroom deal between
Republicans and Democrats removed federal troops from Louisiana and other southern states
that were ostensibly present to protect the rights of Africans from the cruel tyrants who had
presumed to own them.
Soon Louisiana would have one of the largest and most vicious prison systems in the world, that
included the notorious Angola prison established on a landmass larger than Manhattan in New
York.
Louisiana only recently lost its first place position with most prisoners in the U.S. to Oklahoma.
This reduction appears to be related to the state’s response to the “opiate crisis” that has
affected so many whites within the U.S.
Nevertheless, Angola alone holds more than 6,000 men, 80% of whom are African. Created as a
work farm from the time of convict leasing, Angola is named for the African territory from
which it was assumed most of Africans enslaved in Louisiana were kidnapped for the slave-
based economy of the U.S.
While the country of France has a prison rate of 102 per 100,000, Louisiana has an African
prison rate of 2,749 per 100,00 African people, compared to 678 per 100,000 for whites. This is
a consequence of the “exception” clause to the 13 th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and
the rigged jury process that required less than a unanimous vote.
Throughout the post-Reconstruction era in the 1880s, Louisiana state legislators increased
limitations on African jury and voting participation.
At the Louisiana State Constitutional Convention in 1973, delegates fearing the vulnerability of
the non-unanimous jury vote to U.S. constitutional challenge because of its obvious racial

origin, voted to amend the law to make the requirement 10-2 instead of the post-
Reconstruction 9-3 rule. The logic was that the new rule could not be directly traced to the
Redeemers plot but was based on a 1972 Supreme Court ruling in an Oregon case arising from a
non-unanimous verdict.
On November 6, 2018 the people of Louisiana voted to approve a measure to amend the
constitution to include language that at first glance appeared to remedy the longstanding
injustice of the 10-2 jury rule, stating:
1. “Jury Trial in Criminal Cases.
“A criminal case in which the punishment may be capital shall be tried before a jury of
twelve persons, all of whom must concur to render a verdict.
“A case for an offense committed prior (emphasis added) to January 1, 2019, in which the
punishment is necessarily confinement to hard labor shall be tried before a jury of
twelve persons ten of whom must concur to render a verdict.
“A case for an offense committed on or after (emphasis added) January 1, 2019, in which
the punishment is necessarily confinement at hard labor shall be tried before a jury
of twelve persons, all of whom must concur to render a verdict…”

This amendment to the Louisiana state constitution did absolutely nothing to bring relief to the
thousands of people still imprisoned under the 10-2 jury rule. This is the basis of the Unanimous
is Not Enough Campaign that the Louisiana United International has launched to bring a
modicum of justice to these suffering imprisoned men and women, their families and their
communities.
OUR POSITION:
1. The post-Reconstruction law for jury conviction was originally written to provide
legal justification for African people to be treated unequally under the law.
a. Subsequent changes to the law do not obfuscate the original intent of
Louisiana’s split jury verdict laws.
b. Nine-three and 10-2 jury rules were both rooted in a state sanctioned plan to
maintain the enslavement of African people.
2. The original law was clearly written to create a hybrid of American slavery.
a. While today it is often called “job training” and other euphemisms, the practice
of leasing or selling prison labor still thrives.
b. Those convicted and incarcerated by a split verdict are modern-day victims of
the original “Redeemers’” plan to maintain the enslavement of African people.

3. The 2018 amendment to Louisiana’s state constitution attempts to obliterate 139
years of unjust law by creating a legal standard that begins history on January 1,
2019.
a. The question remains: How can a policy or law be unjust on January 1, 2019 and
not the previous 139 years-plus of its existence?
b. Clearly UNANIMOUS IS NOT ENOUGH and EVERYONE convicted and incarcerated
in Louisiana on a verdict of 10-2 are entitled to have their convictions overturned, immediate release, or retrial.