Oregon and Louisiana are the only states where defendants may be convicted with non-unanimous juries. (Murder requires a unanimous verdict in both states.) Prosecutors had agreed to push for changes to require that all verdicts be unanimous in Oregon, but backed away when potential partners in the effort balked at another effort to give prosecutors input over the decision to opt for a bench trial, as opposed to a jury trial. That option rests solely with defendants.
It seems clear that the district attorneys agreed to push for the requirement of unanimous juries–a change that would make their jobs harder–in exchange for input prior to decisions about the type of trial. It is not difficult to imagine, by contrast, that defendants’ rights groups would resist prosecutorial input and influence over trial type. Those groups would surely argue that prosecutors have a large influence over the trial process now. On the other hand, an analysis found that 30 states allow some form of prosecutor input into the jury waiver process.
In any case, any such changes like these would require a state constitutional amendment. As long as proponents of the unanimous jury requirement remain at odds over the trial waiver process, change in either regard appears distant. However, making conviction contingent on unanimous verdicts seems highly desirable, since activists point out that non-unanimous juries negatively impact historically disadvantaged groups. The benefits of a system free of obvious bias, racism, or the suggestion of such cannot be overstated.
Kroll & Johnson are committed to keeping you informed about changes (or changes not made) that could impact your life. Moreover, they are committed to fierce criminal defense for the people of Portland and the state of Oregon. No matter how serious the criminal charges you face are, you don’t have to face them alone. Ed Kroll and Justin Johnson have been fighting and winning criminal cases for years. Call today for a free consultation.