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Orleans Parish DA granting new trials for 22 convicted by split juries

The DA's office plans to allow new trials for 22 people convicted by split juries between 1974 and 2014.

NEW ORLEANS — Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams' office said on Friday they planned to waive all objections to retrials for nearly two dozen state prisoners convicted by split juries since 1974, according to a report from The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate. 

The DA's office plans to allow new trials for 22 people convicted by split juries between 1974 and 2014, getting ahead of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision about the issue, the newspaper reported.

The defendants' original convictions included charges like murder, rape and robbery. The chief of the DA’s civil rights division, Emily Maw, said in a court hearing there would be "plenty of notice and opportunity for crime survivors to have their voices heard in this process."

Last year, the high court ruled against split-jury verdicts in cases with ongoing appeals, a retroactive decision allowing hundreds of inmates incarcerated by 10-2 or 11-1 juries a chance to make their case again. 

But the decision did not apply to the roughly 1,600 inmates in Louisiana who had exhausted all of their appeal options since their split-jury convictions. Those convictions, including for about 300 inmates tried in Orleans Parish, were still considered final. 

Williams promised on the campaign trail to give those people new trials, despite the logistical hurdles of finding witnesses and transcripts from decades ago. 

According to the newspaper's report, several defendants have already agreed to plead guilty on lesser charges to avoid the retrial process.

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