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Date: 08-01-2020

Case Style:

State of Louisiana v. Jonathan Corn

Case Number: 52,867-KA

Judge: James M. "Jimbo" Stephens

Court: COURT OF APPEAL SECOND CIRCUIT STATE OF LOUISIANA

Plaintiff's Attorney: JOHN SCHUYLER MARVIN
District Attorney
JOHN MICHAEL LAWRENCE
ANDREW C. JACOBS
DOUGLAS M. STINSON
Assistant District Attorneys

Defendant's Attorney:

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Description:







COURT OF APPEAL
SECOND CIRCUIT
STATE OF LOUISIANA








This matter comes before us on remand from the Louisiana Supreme
Court. The defendant, Jonathan Corn, was convicted by a nonunanimous
jury of molestation of a juvenile and sentenced to 25 yearsí imprisonment at
hard labor, without benefits. That conviction and sentence was previously
affirmed by this court. State v. Corn, 52,867 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/25/19), 280
So. 3d 921. However, in light of the United States Supreme Courtís ruling
in Ramos v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __, 140 S. Ct. 1390, 206 L. Ed. 2d 583
(2020) and the fact that this matter is on direct appeal, we reverse Cornís
conviction and vacate his sentence. Corn is entitled to a new trial.
In State v. Ramos, 2016-1199 (La. App. 4 Cir. 11/2/17), 231 So. 3d
44, writs denied, 2017-2133 (La. 6/15/18), 257 So. 3d 679, and 2017-1177
(La. 10/15/18), 253 So. 3d 1300, Ramos was convicted of second degree
murder by a jury vote of 10-2. The murder was committed in 2014, and
Ramos was found guilty in 2016. Ramos appealed his conviction, arguing
that the trial court erred in denying his motion to require a unanimous jury
verdict. He asserted that La. C. Cr. P. art. 782 violated the Equal Protection
Clause contained in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States
Constitution. Ramos urged that Louisianaís statutory scheme, which
permitted nonunanimous jury verdicts in noncapital felony cases, should be
declared unconstitutional. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal
rejected Ramosís argument and upheld the constitutionality of art. 782,
finding under then-current jurisprudence from the U.S. Supreme Court,
nonunanimous 12-person jury verdicts were constitutional. The same court
noted that in State v. Bertrand, 2008-2215 (La. 3/17/09), 6 So. 3d 738, the
Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the trial courtís finding that La. C. Cr. P.
2
art. 782(A) violated the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution, relative to the number of jurors needed to concur
to render a verdict in cases in which punishment is necessarily confinement
at hard labor. Id., at 54.
The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Ramos v.
Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 1318, 203 L. Ed. 2d 563 (2019), to
determine whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth
Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict. On April 20, 2020, while
Cornís appeal was pending before the Louisiana Supreme Court, the United
States Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, as
incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment, requires a unanimous verdict to
convict a defendant of a serious offense in both federal and state courts. The
Court concluded, ďThere can be no question either that the Sixth
Amendmentís unanimity requirement applies to state and federal trials
equally[.] So if the Sixth Amendmentís right to a jury trial requires a
unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less
in state court.Ē Ramos v. Louisiana, 1390 S. Ct. at 1397. As a result,
Louisiana will have to retry any defendant convicted of serious offenses by
nonunanimous juries and whose cases are still pending on direct appeal.1

1We further note that an amendment to Louisiana Constitution art. I, ß 17(A) was
approved by Louisiana voters in a statewide election in November 2018. That section
now provides, in pertinent part:
A criminal case in which the punishment may be capital shall be tried
before a jury of twelve persons, all of whom must concur to render a
verdict. A case for an offense committed prior to January 1, 2019, in
which the punishment is necessarily confinement at hard labor shall be
tried before a jury of twelve persons, ten of whom must concur to render a
verdict. A case for an offense committed on or after January 1, 2019, in
which the punishment is necessarily confinement at hard labor shall be
tried before a jury of twelve persons, all of whom must concur to render a
verdict[.]
3
In the instant case, as stated above, the jury was not unanimous in
finding Corn guilty of the serious offense of molestation of a juvenile. The
jury was polled revealing a vote of 10-2. In addition, despite the fact that the
issue was not preserved for appellate review by contemporaneous objection,
we recognize this as error patent on the face of the record. State v. Corn,
2019-01892 (La. 6/3/20), ___ So. 3d ___, 2020 WL 3424849. Accordingly,
in light of the United States Supreme Courtís ruling in Louisiana v. Ramos,
supra, and the fact that this matter is on direct appeal, we reverse Cornís
conviction for molestation of a juvenile. The sentence imposed for that
offense is vacated, and Corn is entitled to a new trial.

Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, Jonathan Corn is entitled to a new trial.
His conviction is reversed, his sentence is vacated, and the matter is
remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

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