February 2, 2022
Elisabeth Shepard, Communications Director
DA Mike Schmidt administration provides testimony on Ramos ruling, ‘Constitutional rights should not depend on luck or timing’
PORTLAND, Ore. – Today, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office (MCDA) Policy Director Aaron Knott provided testimony in the Oregon State Senate Committee on Judiciary on SB 1511 which dictates that United States Supreme Court’s Ramos ruling be applied retroactively.
Knott testified at a preliminary hearing on this measure late last year. MCDA is proud to support SB 1511 this Black History Month as addressing racial disparities in Oregon’s incarcerated populations is among its express purposes.
The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Ramos v. Louisiana held that the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that a guilty verdict for criminal trials be unanimous. Oregon and Louisiana are the only states who permitted a non-unanimous verdict, a rule which has been criticized for silencing diverse voices on the jury.
“Oregon’s overlong reliance on a practice that has been abandoned by 48 other states even prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos poses a significant challenge, yet with the right investments, we can meet that challenge.” MCDA Policy Director Aaron Knott stated.
Knott also noted that the legislature must “work to provide the necessary funding to all links in the chain that will be called upon to implement these changes, including defense attorneys as well as prosecutors, investigators and victims advocates, to allow us to not only do the right thing but do it the right way, by centering victims and meeting their needs even as we take this difficult but necessary step towards justice.”
Analysis by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found statistically significant disparities exist among those convicted by non-unanimous juries in Oregon. Black Oregonians are among those who have experienced the most disproportionate impacts, representing 14% of those convicted by non-unanimous juries while only accounting for 2.2% of Oregon’s total population.
“If you were convicted prior to the cutoff for direct appeal, you may well be denied relief, simply because of timing. Justice should not, and does not, function in this manner. Constitutional rights should not depend on luck or timing.” Knott continued.
The bill has received its first public hearing and remains under consideration in the Oregon State Senate Committee on Judiciary.
View full hearing by clicking here.