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The Pursuit of Basic Fairness

Andrea Armstrong, professor in the College of Law, worked as a member of the Unanimous Jury Coalition in 2018 and strengthened a statewide campaign for Amendment 2 - the Unanimous Jury Verdict for Felony Trials Amendment.

Louisiana was once only one of two states where someone can be sentenced to life without parole without a unanimous decision of a jury. Louisiana is also the #2 incarcerator for the world per capita. An expert in criminal and constitutional laws in Louisiana since the 1800s, Andrea Armstrong knew she needed to be part of this “once in a lifetime” opportunity to amend the Louisiana constitution and end an unfair practice that had existed for at least 138 years.

It was the ultimate group project, and Armstrong focused her efforts on strategy, education, and fundraising efforts, with a goal of raising $2 million dollars. Her strategy was two-fold: educate people about the history and impact, and partner with traditional political campaign efforts.

2nd highest wrongful convictions nationwide
40% of jury convictions from non-unanimous juries

In this work, non-unanimous juries have always been a problem, and we saw the disparate impact on different communities, particularly communities of color.

– Andrea Armstrong, J.D.

Take a look

Person speaking into a microphone

Video Credit: Yes on 2 - Congo Square from Mercury Media and the Unanimous Jury Coalition

A statewide vote for “YES on 2,” the Unanimous Jury Verdict for Felony Trials Amendment meant that there would need to be a unanimous agreement of jurors, rather than just 10 of 12 jurors to convict individuals with a felony crime.

The Unanimous Jury Coalition was founded by at least 20 different organizations and groups such as Southern Poverty Law Center, Innocence Project New Orleans, ACLU of Louisiana, the Promise of Justice Initiative, Voice of the Experienced, and concerned individuals.

Loyola played an important role in educating the community about Amendment 2 through leading on-campus events with speakers, undergraduate and law students organizing voter registration drives, and volunteering to go door-to-door to get out the vote.

A significant moment in the campaign - Dean Madeleine Landrieu from the Loyola College of Law, and Dean David Meyer from the Tulane College of Law signed a joint open letter on the importance of unanimous juries to the legal community.

Andrea Armstrong with kids at the State Peniteniary advocating for
Get Out the Vote

A statewide vote for “YES on 2,” the Unanimous Jury Verdict for Felony Trials Amendment meant that there would need to be a unanimous agreement of jurors, rather than just 10 of 12 jurors to convict individuals with a felony crime.

Members in the Unanimous Jury Coalition
The Unanimous Jury Coalition

The Unanimous Jury Coalition was founded by at least 20 different organizations and groups such as Southern Poverty Law Center, Innocence Project New Orleans, ACLU of Louisiana, the Promise of Justice Initiative, Voice of the Experienced, and concerned individuals.

A lecture hall with students and a speaker
Community Education

Loyola played an important role in educating the community about Amendment 2 through leading on-campus events with speakers, undergraduate and law students organizing voter registration drives, and volunteering to go door-to-door to get out the vote.

Dean Madeleine Landrieu speaking
Community Collaboration

A significant moment in the campaign - Dean Madeleine Landrieu from the Loyola College of Law, and Dean David Meyer from the Tulane College of Law signed a joint open letter on the importance of unanimous juries to the legal community.

With the help of lawyers, marketing strategists, students, grassroots advocates, faith-based, progressive and conservative groups, and leadership from people formerly incarcerated, the coalition secured a big win on election day, with 61 out of 64 parishes voting YES and an overwhelming turnout of voters. A unanimous jury must now agree to convict anyone with a felony crime in the state of Louisiana. With this win, the coalition ultimately ended an unfair practice that had been in effect for at least 138 years and changed the Louisiana constitution.

Andrea Armstrong, J.D.
Andrea Armstrong, J.D.

The education component of the strategy meant building momentum and conversations around what does a fair trial look like. So, it wasn’t fully tied to vote yes or no, but rather, you need to know more about this issue.

61 of 64 parishes voted YES
Victory! 12 out of 12 jurors needed to convict

Join the Movement

There’s still more work to be done to make Louisiana’s criminal justice system more fair.

Learn how to help

Andrea Armstrong

Learn more information about Andrea Armstrong.

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Dig Deeper

Find out how non-unanimous juries impact lives

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Did you know?

In 2018, our College of Law students achieved one of the highest passage rate of all test takers on the July 2018 Louisiana State Bar Exam? And to top it off, Loyola’s first-time test takers passed at a rate of 87.10%!

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