The Oregon Department of Justice conceded Monday that convictions on at least 269 cases should be tossed out following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month. The court found in Ramos v. Louisiana that convictions by non-unanimous juries in state criminal courts violate the Constitution.
While the case before the court was out of Louisiana, Oregon was the last state in the country to allow non-unanimous convictions in felony, non-murder cases. Before that ruling, juries could convict defendants by 10-2 and 11-1 verdicts, a practice that was based in discrimination and racism because it made it easier to convict defendants of color and silence perspectives of jurors of color.
The 269 cases likely represent just a small number of the total cases that could be affected.
“These lists are likely not a complete account of cases that will require reversal, but they represent the cases that the Department of Justice has been able to identity based on the information we have,” Oregon Solicitor General Benjamin Gutman wrote to state court officials.
The list of cases presented Monday to the Oregon Supreme Court and the state Court of Appeals are cases on direct appeal. The Justice Department noted some of the cases could require some further litigation if some or all of the charges are unanimous or it’s unknown because the jury wasn’t polled on how they voted.
The cases cover a wide range of criminal charges, from sodomy, burglary and assaulting a public safety officer to drug charges.
The cases still require the approval of judges and justices on either court before the convictions can be reversed.
Some of the defendants are serving sentences in prison, others are on parole or probation, while others still have served their sentence and could be paying restitution.
Many of the cases could be sent back and retried by local district attorneys. In other cases, prosecutors could choose not to retry the case, effectively dropping the charges.
Oregon courts have been reduced to only their essential functions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These cases will further strain the backlogged court system once more normal operations resume.