Fault Lines

The Jim Crow Convictions

Fault Lines investigates the racist past and continuing impact of non-unanimous jury convictions in Louisiana.

In 1997, Brandon Jackson was convicted of armed robbery in Louisiana in the United States.

At his trial, two jurors voted not guilty. In 48 out of 50 states Jackson would have had the right to a retrial, but not in Louisiana.

The law dates back to the Jim Crow era. In 1898, as white politicians across the US passed laws to restrict African Americans’ newfound civil rights, Louisiana implemented non-unanimous jury convictions to diminish the influence of Black jurors. If there were two or three Black people on a jury, their votes would not matter.

Louisiana banned the practice in 2018, and the US Supreme Court ruled they were unconstitutional two years later. Yet today there are at least 1,500 people in prisons across the state who were convicted by juries that could not agree on their guilt. Eighty percent are Black – like Jackson.

Fault Lines partnered with The Lens in New Orleans to investigate the history of this racist law and the path forward for people like Jackson.