Nonunanimous Jury Case Update

On December 30, 2022, the Oregon Supreme Court held in Watkins v. Ackley that a person convicted of a crime in Oregon by a nonunanimous jury verdict—regardless of the date of their conviction—gets a new trial, unless the State of Oregon identifies a procedural defense in post-conviction that prevents the person from getting a new trial. The attorneys at O’Connor Weber represent Mr. Watkins and briefed and argued the case for him in the Oregon Supreme Court. O’Connor Weber attorneys also worked closely Professor Aliza Kaplan and the Ramas Project at Lewis and Clark Law School and other attorneys to coordinate the litigation of the hundreds of cases, culminating with the Supreme Court’s decision in Watkins.

In 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States’ in Ramos v. Louisiana explained the United States Constitution requires guilty verdicts in felony jury trials to be unanimous. Ramos struck down Louisiana’s and Oregon’s nonunanimous jury systems. The decision in Watkins effectively applies Ramos retroactively to Oregon cases that became final prior to the 2020 Ramos decision, although Watkins leaves open the possibility that the State of Oregon could raise procedural defenses to argue against new trials in some cases.

The following news stories describe the ruling:

What’s next? 

The Oregon Supreme Court decision in Watkins is not yet final. O’Connor Weber expects the decision to become final in the next few weeks. After that, the attorneys at O’Connor Weber will have more information about the impact that the decision in Watkins will have on other cases. O’Connor Weber will provide updates as more information becomes available.

If a person was convicted by a nonunanimous verdict in an Oregon State court and the person does not have a pending case that challenges that conviction, then the person should consider consulting with an attorney about how the decision in Watkins may impact them. A person who is eligible for court-appointed counsel should contact the Oregon Post-Conviction Consortium at (503) 991-5464. Other people seeking to consult with a lawyer about whether they may challenge their conviction under the decision in Watkins may call O’Connor Weber at 503-226-0923. 

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