Criminal Justice

RELEASE: Supreme Court’s “Deeply Disappointing” Ruling in Edwards  

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court this morning issued its ruling in Edwards v Vannoy, holding that the rule announced last year in Ramos v. Louisiana—that the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a unanimous jury verdict in both federal and state criminal trials—does not apply retroactively on collateral review. Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following reaction:

We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision this morning. As a result of this morning’s decision, someone who was convicted by a non-unanimous jury, and who exhausted his direct appeals before Ramos was decided, cannot challenge his unconstitutional conviction based on Ramos’s holding.

The majority this morning in Edwards all but admitted that Ramos announced a “watershed” rule of criminal procedure, which—under the Court’s precedent from Teague v. Lane—should apply retroactively. But the Court overruled that part of Teague, declaring that there is no “watershed” exception and that “procedural rules do not apply retroactively on federal collateral review”—no exceptions. This decision is wrong.

Echoing the amicus brief CAC filed on behalf of law professors and social scientists, Justice Kagan explained in dissent that the Ramos unanimity rule “is as ‘bedrock’ as bedrock comes” because it “is grounded in the Nation’s constitutional traditions—with centuries-old practice becoming part of the Sixth Amendment’s original meaning.”

The majority did not contest this characterization, but the Court nevertheless doubled down on its notion that no rule is “watershed” enough to apply retroactively. In doing so, it unfortunately overlooked the critical work the nation had to do after Teague, and still has to do, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system—as demonstrated by the Ramos ruling itself.

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Resources:

CAC’s case page in Edwards v. Vannoyhttps://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/edwards-v-vannoy/

CAC’s case page in Ramos v. Louisianahttps://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/ramos-v-louisiana/

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Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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