Edwards v. Vannoy
Does the Court’s decision in Ramos v. Louisiana, holding that the Sixth Amendment establishes a right to a unanimous jury in both federal and state courts, apply retroactively to cases on federal collateral review?Advocates
- Andre Belanger, for the petitioner
- Elizabeth Murrill, for the respondent
- Christopher G. Michel, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent
Edwards v. Vannoy concerns the doctrine of retroactivity—when new constitutional rules of criminal procedure apply to cases that have already become final. A case becomes final when the appeals and possible petition for certiorari have culminated. Generally, new constitutional rules of criminal procedure do not apply to cases that have become final. But new “substantive” rules, such as a constitutional right to engage in the conduct that led to the conviction, do apply retroactively as do new “watershed” rules of criminal procedure that affect the accuracy of a conviction.
Edwards asks whether the Supreme Court’s decision from last term, Ramos v. Louisiana, is one of those retroactive rules. Ramos held that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments require states to obtain criminal convictions through unanimous verdicts; states cannot convict a defendant based on a 10-2 jury verdict.
In Edwards, Mr. Edwards is arguing first that the holding in Ramos did not announce a new rule. Writing for himself in Ramos, Justice Gorsuch agreed, explaining that the Court’s earlier cases on incorporating most of the Bill of Rights to apply against the states and on the requirement of unanimity dictated the result in Ramos. The defendant is also arguing that Ramos was a watershed rule. Because only watershed rules apply retroactively, and because watershed rules are those that increase accuracy, the Court was interested in what it means for a rule to increase accuracy and whether Ramos is such a rule. The Chief Justice, Justice Kagan, Justice Barrett, and Justice Thomas all asked questions about “accuracy.”
Justice Kagan asked Mr. Edwards’ lawyer about what accuracy means and how to determine whether a given rule affects the accuracy of a conviction.Edwards v. Vannoy on Oyez: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/19-5807