Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed Evangelisto Ramos’s 2016 murder conviction, which had been handed down by a split jury (see Ramos v. Louisiana). The court overturned its own 50-year-old precedent and ruled that the requirement that a jury’s vote for conviction of a “serious offense” be unanimous (set by the Sixth Amendment) applies to all state courts, not just the federal courts.
The decision is psychologically fascinating.
The majority is unabashedly apologetic.
Former prosecutor Justice Alito and former solicitor generals Justice Robert and Justice Kagan actually dissent. “Rights, Shmites” they more or less write. Upholding precedent is way more important.
Kavanough’s “concurrence” is also striking. His motivation for voting to overrule the courts prior precedent appears to be an urge to clear the filth of racial prejudice from the administration of justice, not to create a fairer or more just system. “[The] question at this point is not whether the Constitution prohibits non-unanimous juries,” he begins. “It does. Rather, the disputed question here is whether to overrule an erroneous constitutional precedent that allowed non-unanimous juries. And on that question—the question whether to overrule—the Jim Crow origins and racially discriminatory effects (and the perception thereof ) of non-unanimous juries in Louisiana and Oregon should matter and should count heavily in favor of overruling…” He then spends many pages explaining that Jim Crow laws were bad and wrong and need to be “purged”. He makes no mention of the explicitly anti-Semitic origins of Oregon’s laws eliminating the unanimity requirement following a high-profile acquittal of a Jewish man. (Perhaps racism is “dirtier” than anti-Semitism?). And he expresses exactly zero concern regarding the possibility of wrongful convictions of innocent defendants.
I predict that if and when he votes to overturn Roe v. Wade as another “egregiously erroneous” precedent, he’ll pen an opinion or concurrence explaining that abortion poses a unique threat to precious black lives, promotes racist eugenics, and calls back to the Tuskegee study. And look out for more metaphors related to “purging” and “cleansing.”
Also: you can read more about conservative Republicans’ attitudes toward cleanliness here.