In 1934, during a rising tide of racism and xenophobia, Oregon became one of the two states in U.S. history that allowed a person to be criminally convicted and sent to prison by a non-unanimous jury conviction. SB 1511 is an opportunity for our state to acknowledge, reverse, and address the harms of this racist law.
In 2020, the US Supreme Court struck down Oregon’s non-unanimous jury law, finding the law unconstitutional and its founding in 1934 tied to white supremacy and xenophobia. However, hundreds of Oregonians convicted by non-unanimous juries still remain in prison or shackled with criminal convictions. They have no recourse to justice because their criminal cases are older, while those with more recent cases have been provided the chance to request a just and constitutional legal process. This different treatment of those with older versus more recent cases is arbitrary.
With SB 1511, the Oregon Legislature has the historic opportunity to remedy the harms of our state’s racist jury law — to provide all Oregonians convicted by non-unanimous juries the opportunity to seek a just and constitutional legal process. This type of effort by our state, to address historical and systemic racism in our criminal legal system, is especially important because Black, Indigenous, and people of color are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionate rates compared to white people. SB 1511 is about our state living up to our values of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.