Federal Judge Frees Louisiana Prisoner Convicted by Non-Unanimous Jury in 2003

Work by SMU Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center leads to Troy Rhodes’ release to transitional reentry housing before retrial

DALLAS (SMU) U.S. District Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo ordered the State of Louisiana to release Troy Rhodes from prison. In 2003, a non-unanimous jury voted 10-2 to convict Mr. Rhodes of armed robbery and attempted second-degree murder. Judge Triche-Milazzo had previously ruled that Rhodes had not received the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.

Rhodes was thankful for a second chance at justice and the opportunity to spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” he said. “I thank God for this decision. I know it’s not over yet, but this is in the Lord’s hands.”

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law has been working on the case and petitioned for Rhodes’s release.

“We’re grateful for the judge’s decision,” said Professor Pamela R. Metzger, Director of the SMU Deason Center. “We believe this decision, along with recent steps taken by the Louisiana legislature, show the promise of criminal justice reform.”

Earlier this month, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 82-15 to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot and let voters decide the fate of a law that allows juries to return non-unanimous verdicts in felony trials. The Louisiana Senate passed a similar bill in early April.

Rhodes has been released to The First 72+, a New Orleans nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated people reacclimate to their new lives outside of prison. The SMU Deason Center will continue to handle legal matters pertaining to Rhodes’ case.

About Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law is a national leader committed to research-driven criminal justice reform that disrupts outdated systems and re-engineers justice policies to restore fairness, balance and compassion. The Deason Center brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. Through collection, analysis and assessment of data, the Deason Center identifies criminal justice policy and reform needs. Wrapping these statistics around the untold stories of those who live, work and struggle in our criminal justice system, the Deason Center amplifies criminal justice consequences and provides constructive policies for justice reform. The Deason Center’s dynamic, compassionate and hands-on approach puts the head and the heart to work for meaningful systemic change. The Deason Center publishes and promotes criminal justice reform scholarship in academic journals and public policy fora. The Center also supports and encourages the criminal justice scholarship of SMU Law faculty.

About SMU Dedman School of Law

The SMU Dedman School of Law was founded in 1925. It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family. SMU Dedman School of Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates.

About SMU

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in seven degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.