PORTLAND, Oregon – Today, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced a new policy aimed to help eradicate discrimination of protected classes in jury selection has been adopted by his office. Oregon law recognizes race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and national origin as protected classes.
The policy clarifies how the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office (MCDA) applies the findings of Batson v. Kentucky, in the aftermath of the Oregon Court of Appeals’ decision in State v. McWoods, which established that a prosecutor’s use of a peremptory challenge, in a criminal case—meaning the dismissal of jurors without stating a valid cause for doing so—may not be used to exclude jurors based solely on their race. The McWoods decision failed to clarify how prosecutors should best achieve this purpose when the state, following Batson, offered multiple race-neutral justifications for the excusal of jurors in the trial against Mr. McWoods.
The Oregon Supreme Court denied an appeal filed by the state earlier this December, only two days from the anniversary of the death of the child victim in the McWoods case.
“I am disappointed with the Oregon Supreme Court’s denial of the McWoods appeal. The McWoods decision has created confusion in the law that our prosecutors are struggling to navigate. Further clarification from the highest court on behalf of the state and defense on a topic this important in the administration of justice is sorely lacking. We will move forward with re-prosecuting the underlying child homicide case in this matter as we continue to offer support to the victim’s family,” DA Mike Schmidt stated.
The policy considers a range of applicable case laws that articulate the misgivings of removing a juror from a protected class without cause. It instructs attorneys that, in the event that a no-cause removal is necessary, they must prepare a comparative juror analysis which entails determining whether a race-neutral reason that a party offers for eliminating a prospective juror also applies to one or more prospective jurors whom the party did not strike.
The policy originated from MCDA’s attorney staff in early 2022, prior to the McWoods decision. Senior Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell and Deputy District Attorney Megan Axley-Irinaga led the charge in drafting the policy and advocating for its adoption.
“I entrust Senior Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell with the task of training incoming attorneys in our office, due in part to her commitment to fairness and racial equity and due to her legal acumen. When she came to me with this proposal, I knew it was imperative to enshrine MCDA’s legacy of eradicating discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and other protected classes in the criminal justice system and swiftly adopted it,” DA Schmidt stated.