Benton County DA supports non-unanimous juries campaign

Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson
Friday, January 12, 2018

“The criminal justice system should be a reflection of the public’s shared values,” said Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson. “The unanimous jury system allows for all voices in the jury to be heard, and that’s critical to a just and transparent criminal justice system.”

A proposed ballot initiative to repeal the state's constitutional amendment that allows non-unanimous juries to convict people in Oregon courts was announced yesterday, January 10.

“Repealing this measure will allow all serious felony convictions and acquittals to be unanimous. The hallmark of a fair and just criminal justice system is having a jury of your peers review the evidence and make decisions,” said Haroldson.

Oregon is only one of two states that allow someone to be found guilty or not guilty of a felony criminal case by a 10-2 jury vote. The only exception is murder or aggravated murder cases.

In 1934, Oregon voters passed the 10-2 jury system. Critics of the non-unanimous system argue the system is deeply flawed. They argue the amendment was passed during a time when voters’ attitudes were racist and anti-immigrant, and the non-unanimous system is inherently discriminatory.

“While there is no evidence that non-unanimous juries negatively affect minorities, 48 of 50 states require unanimous juries for felony criminal cases and it is good policy to align our jury system with that of the rest of the country,” Haroldson stated.

Defenders of the 10-2 jury system believe it allows for fewer hung juries and increased efficiency in criminal justice systems.

The Oregon District Attorneys Association, comprised of the 36 elected district attorneys in Oregon, will back the proposed ballot measure to repeal non-unanimous juries to convict defendants from the state’s constitution.

“Prosecutors believe in a fair and just criminal justice system, and we want our communities to have confidence in our systems.”