HJR 10 VOTE:YES – Died In Committee on 06-30-19
Status (overview) of bill:https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Measures/Overview/HJR0010
Committee assigned to bill:https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Committees/HJUD/Overview
This bill amends Oregon Constitution to require juries to issue a unanimous verdict in criminal cases. Refers to voters.
Personal Choice and Responsibility
This bill puts Oregon in line with the U.S. Constitution, which requires a unanimous verdict that the US Supreme Court has not upheld. There is one known case of Bradley Holbrook serving six years on a 11-1 conviction before it was overturned. Oregon is the only state allowing less-than-unanimous verdicts.
Critics of the system say it’s tough to understand how a guilty verdict that arises from a 10-2 or 11-1 vote shows that guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt — the standard of proof that the government is held to in a criminal trial.
Finally, a bill proposal that makes sense!
The bill analysis is flawed. In the first place, there is no right to a unanimous verdict to be protected by either the U.S. Constitution or Oregon Constitution. That defense attorneys would protest the less-than-unanimous standard is understandable since that means they can’t rely on that one holdout to hang the jury and force a mistrial. That may or may not constitute “reasonable doubt”.
In the second place, it is a pretty big leap to conclude on the basis of only the Holbrook trial that “wrongful convictions [will be] more likely” if this amendment does not pass. This standard has been in place since 1934, yet there has never been a successful legal challenge to it. Besides, just as non-unanimous verdicts may make the prosecutor’s job a bit easier (more convictions), the same can be said on the other side since non-unanimous juries can also acquit. One should also point out that the current standard for conviction of first degree murder is by unanimous verdict.
Finally, this bill does not rate an impact above 5 since as a proposal to amend the Constitution it must go to the people for approval. That will be when the real fight begins.
Despite the obvious argument on the other side, I think this is a fair standard that should be applied to all convictions that would result in a loss of your freedom. As it has been proven in the past people will lie to save themselves at the expense of another. For this reason and it alone, no one should be incarcerated on anything less than a unanimous verdict. If you’re seeking a perfect system, you will fail. We can only seek that which is realistic.