PORTLAND, Ore. — The Supreme Court ruled today that the U.S. Constitution requires jury unanimity for state criminal convictions. This ruling invalidates the part of the Oregon constitution that allows for non-unanimous jury convictions. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
Kelly Simon, interim legal director of the ACLU of Oregon, had the following comment:
“The Supreme Court today struck down Oregon’s racist and shameful law that allowed people to be convicted by a 10-2 jury. Non-unanimous jury verdicts silenced minority voices, amplified implicit bias, and perpetuated racial disparities. The Supreme Court upheld the ‘ancient guarantee’ that when the state brings its power to bear against us, it may not take our freedom unless it fully convinces an impartial jury of our guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Oregon was the last state in the nation that allowed non-unanimous convictions. Oregon's law, passed via ballot measure in 1934, reflected the anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, and anti-immigrant sentiment of the time.
Louisiana’s law, which was overturned by voters in 2018, was passed during the Jim Crow era to make it easier to send Black men to prison.