As the struggle continues on the part of the Unanimous Is Not Enough movement to free all those wrongfully convicted by the state of Louisiana’s Jim Crow 10/2 law, it reminds us of when author William Faulkner once said, “The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”
Louisiana’s voters made it clear by a margin of two to one, that there shall be no more non-unanimous jury laws in their state from 2019 moving forward. But, the Unanimous Is Not Enough movement asks us, “Isn’t Jim Crow just as wrong in 2019 as anytime in the past? And if so, shouldn’t the new law be retroactive to include all those unjustly convicted in the past but still incarcerated?” The ‘powers that be’ have answered that this would be damaging to the state’s economy. It seems justice has no place in a multi-billion-dollar prison industry that extracts profit from unpaid convict labor. This reality is rooted in a past of slavery and racism, and we continue to be haunted by them both because neither has ever died.
The 10/2 law, originally 9/3, finds its origins in the 1898 Louisiana Constitutional Convention and it reads as follows: ” . . . .cases in which the punishment is necessarily at hard labor, by a jury of twelve, nine of whom concurring may render a verdict . . . ” Louisiana State Constitution. Article 116. Trials With or Without a Jury, Page 148. At Louisiana’s 1974 Constitutional Convention it was changed from 9/3 to 10/2 to avoid possible Supreme Court action.
Also at the 1898 Convention, Article 197 was designed to disqualify black men from voting or registering to vote in every conceivable fashion. The convention president, Earnest B. Kruttschnitt in his closing remarks said, “We have not drafted the exact constitution that we should like to have drafted; otherwise we should have inscribed in it . . . universal white manhood suffrage, and the exclusion from the suffrage of every man with a trace of African blood in his veins. We could not do that on account of the fifteenth Amendment . . . ” Official Journal of the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Louisiana, 1898. Page 380, left column.
Such laws, so explicitly white supremacist, combined with the 13th Amendment, somehow survived the Civil Rights movement and today give us a Louisiana that regularly practices illegal voter suppression and is the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated country in the world. It is the 13th Amendment, which should be called the re-enslavement amendment, that has kept slavery alive and well in the United States because of the clause that reads slavery is abolished, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
The political battle lines are forming now for elections in 2020. Support Unanimous is Not Enough. Join the fight in your state against modern day slavery and voter suppression.
Contact Belinda Parker Brown of Louisiana United International/Unanimous Is Not Enough at 269-369-4751.