The Delaware Supreme Court issued an opinion on August 2, 2016, holding the death penalty unconstitutional. The Delaware Supreme Court rejected the state statute that allowed for imposition of a death sentence based upon a non-unanimous jury verdict, and under circumstances in which the State failed to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that death was the appropriate punishment. In issuing the opinion, the Court referenced the Amicus Brief of The Promise of Justice Initiative, New Orleans, Louisiana, Amicus Curiae for the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, noting:
Rauf is joined by amicus curiae, who echo his arguments, but who also make a more fundamental argument, which is that there is no more fundamentally important role for a jury fairly drawn from the community than determining whether a defendant should live or die. They read Hurst as recognizing a more essential consideration that has been obscured in the complexity of the post-Furman world, which is that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury has perhaps its most powerful importance when the question is whether the defendant should live or die.
Rauf at 58-59. The Promise of Justice Initiative Brief on behalf of Rauf is attached below. PJI and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute provided the amicus brief in part due to the racial origins of Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury rule. Louisiana is one of the few states that allow a non-unanimous juries in non-capital cases.
The Rauf opinion calls into question the continued legitimacy of non-unanimous verdicts. Louisiana’s death penalty statute has a similar problem to Delaware’s as it fails to require the jury to determine beyond a reasonable doubt, that death is the appropriate punishment.