Unjust Provision in Oregon’s State Constitution for Nonunanimous Guilty Verdicts Finally Overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court
The State of Oregon was the last state in the nation to allow nonunanimous jury verdicts in felony prosecutions.
That meant all 12 jurors did not have to agree on the guilt of the accused and allowed nonunanimous criminal convictions when as many as two jurors believed the defendant was innocent.
Since 1933, this antiquated provision that was the product of racism and anti-Semitism —enacted by Oregon voters as a result of the KKK’s political influence — has violated the jury trial right established in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
For decades, Oregon defense attorneys, including ours at Mark C. Cogan, P.C., opposed this practice, and fought against its existence, with our pleas for change repeatedly rejected by the courts.
That is, until April 2020. In the case of Ramos v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the attorneys’ position on this archaic law and rejected convictions with nonunanimous juries as violating the jury trial guarantee that is contained in our U.S. Constitution.
Hundreds of Oregon convictions were overturned and sent back for new trials, giving those who were convicted by nonunanimous juries a second chance.
Conviction Change Highlights Nonunanimous Acquittals in Oregon
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the nonunanimous conviction jury verdicts, the question of whether Oregon defendants could still be acquitted — free from a criminal charge by a verdict of not guilty — on nonunanimous not guilty verdicts was argued before the Oregon Supreme Court.
In a ruling issued on February 25, 2021, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the defense’s position in the argument that a 10-2 not-guilty vote suffices for acquittal under the Oregon Constitution, even though a jury must be unanimous to convict.
Oregon Defense Attorneys at Mark C. Cogan, P.C. Applaud the Latest Decisions
At Mark C. Cogan, P.C., our Oregon defense attorneys applaud both the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nonunanimous guilty verdicts, which after nearly 90 years has finally leveled the playing field for all defendants whose lives hang in the balance of twelve jurors.
We also agree the case of Ramos v. Louisiana did not address nonunanimous acquittals, as determined by the Oregon Supreme Court, which means only ten of twelve jurors must enter a decision of not guilty for our clients to be released from the charges in that case.
We believe this is consistent with the principle of justice expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone who said, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
Contact the Experienced Defense Attorneys at Mark C. Cogan, P.C. Today
If you are facing criminal charges in Oregon and are unsure about your legal rights and options to defend yourself, contact our skilled Oregon criminal defense attorneys at Mark C. Cogan, P.C. at 503-549-1077 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation to get the answers you need to make informed decisions about the direction of your case today.