November 19, 2021

Louisiana Court of Appeal Holds Ramos Applies Retroactively, Cites Work of Milbank Associate Kyle R. Satterfield


On November 10, 2021, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, reversing the decision of a lower court, held that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Ramos v. Louisiana applies retroactively. In its decision, the Court of Appeal cited “Circumventing Apodaca:  An Equal Protection Challenge to Nonunanimous Jury Verdicts in Louisiana,” 90 Tul. L. Rev. 693 (2016), an article written by Milbank LLP associate Kyle R. Satterfield in 2016 while Editor in Chief of the Tulane Law Review.

In Ramos, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury system, which required the vote of only ten of twelve jurors to convict a criminal defendant of a felony, violated the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court left open the issue of whether its ruling in Ramos applies retroactively in state post-conviction proceedings.

The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal heard the case of Julio Melendez, who was convicted of second degree murder in 1987 after a jury returned a guilty verdict by a vote of 11-1. In February 2021, Mr. Melendez and more than 1,000 others in Louisiana filed applications for post-conviction relief, seeking remedies for their convictions resulting from non-unanimous jury verdicts. Mr. Melendez is a client of The Promise of Justice Initiative.

In its opinion reversing a lower court’s denial of Mr. Melendez’s application, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit cited Mr. Satterfield’s research in Circumventing Apodaca regarding the racial-based motivations behind Louisiana’s adoption of its non-unanimous jury system in 1898 during the Jim Crow era. The court also quoted Mr. Satterfield’s research demonstrating that “Louisiana’s policy of permitting non-unanimous jury verdicts has been used to ‘inhibit black prospective jurors from serving on juries through the strategic use of peremptory challenges.’”

Mr. Satterfield is a member of Milbank’s Financial Restructuring Group in New York. He served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. L. Felipe Restrepo on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He also served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. Brian A. Jackson, then Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Milbank has a longstanding pro bono commitment to criminal justice and sentencing issues, including an ongoing collaboration with the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to children and adults who have been sentenced as juveniles.