This fall, Oregon became the only state that allows non-unanimous guilty verdicts. Louisiana passed Amendment 2 on November 6th. The amendment requires unanimous jury decisions for guilty verdicts. Louisiana had been the only other state in the country to allow split jury verdicts.
The decision drew major support and will take effect on January 1, 2019. So what makes a non-unanimous jury system controversial?
Relying on old standards
The current jury decision system was created in 1934. It requires only 10 of 12 jurors to rule a suspect is guilty. Proponents say it helps move cases through the court system faster.
The state has attempted to change this law in the past several times, but all have failed. Oregon has intentions of re-examining the jury system in next year’s legislative session.
As the only state in the nation still accepting split-jury verdicts, it’s worth examining why other states refuse to use them.
Oregon’s lower burden of proof
A non-unanimous guilty system creates some issues. It can lead to a higher rate of wrongful convictions. It can devalue the jury system by placing more emphasis on a majority opinion.
A split jury also lowers the burden of proof and can make it easier for prosecutors to earn a guilty verdict. It’s easier to convince 10 people than it is 12.
That’s not to say a unanimous jury always gets it right, but it creates a higher barrier between someone accused of a crime and a wrongful conviction.
Defending those wrongfully convicted
Those convicted by a split jury may face a wrongful conviction. If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, there is hope.
A skilled post-conviction attorney can help. They can provide a realistic assessment of your case and give you the options that make the most sense for your situation.