Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions
Louisiana v. Hodge
Opinion Date: November 19, 2019
Judge: John L. Weimer
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
By separate bills of information, defendant Valentino Hodge was charged with one count of domestic abuse battery by strangulation in the presence of a minor, and with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant pleaded not guilty, and the charges were slated for a jury trial. Owing in large measure to the defendant’s vacillation between being represented by appointed counsel and seeking retained counsel, the trial date was continued several times. In January 2019, the state filed a motion in limine seeking to have the district court declare that the defendant would be tried by a jury composed of twelve jurors, ten of whom must concur to render a verdict. The next day, without a hearing, the district court signed an order denying the state’s motion in limine and declaring that defendant was entitled to a unanimous jury verdict pursuant to the district court’s own earlier ruling in Louisiana v. Maxie, 11th Judicial District Court, No. 13-CR-72522, October 11, 2018. The Louisiana Supreme Court determined the district court committed two interrelated errors: (1) creating, on its own initiative, a constitutional challenge to statutory law and to provisions of the Louisiana Constitution; and (2) striking down the jury verdict regime as unconstitutional on the basis of an earlier, nonbinding district court holding. Based on these errors, the Supreme Court vacated the district court’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings.
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