BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A historic decision could be made soon by the Louisiana State Supreme Court as a man accused of second-degree murder decades ago could get a new trial.
In 1997, Reginald Reddick was convicted of second-degree murder. But not everyone believed he was guilty.
“Everything about this case was circumstantial, except for one witness,” said Deputy Director of the Promise of Justice Initiative Jamila Johnson. “Two jurors thought that this witness was not credible, and they voted not guilty, but Mr. Reddick was convicted anyway.”
A non-unanimous jury convicted him, which was how the court system worked then. But Johnson explained the non-unanimous jury law enacted in 1898 was what some have called the last Jim Crow law in Louisiana.
“They did so with the intent, in their words not mine, ensuring the supremacy of the white race in the state,” Johnson said.
Louisiana amended the state’s constitution in 2018.
“So, for future crimes, past a certain date, they would require a unanimous jury verdict,” Johnson said.
And In 2020, the Supreme Court agreed, saying non-unanimous juries had always deprived Louisiana residents of their federal constitutional rights.
“Now we are in court saying what do we do about the fifteen hundred people who are still in prison in Louisiana who never received a constitutional guilty verdict,” said Johnson.
The Louisiana State Supreme Court will hear both sides of the argument Tuesday of next week. If they agree with Johnson and other advocates, Reddick will get a new trial, as well as anyone else who did not receive a non-unanimous trial.
“This isn’t about opening the doors and releasing everyone,” Johnson said. “They will get that new trial and we have all these procedures in place in Louisiana to make that possible.”
Johnson says it’s not clear exactly how many people have filed requesting a new trial, but at least 1,000 people have, including Reddick.
BRPROUD reached out to the Attorney General’s office, who is representing the state in this case, but they declined an interview, however, they did email a comment.
“Thank you for your interest in the case. We’d encourage you and the public to listen to the arguments next week.”Cory Dennis, Press Secretary Louisiana Attorney General’s Office