<<Hundreds of felony convictions became invalid Friday after the Oregon Supreme Court struck down all nonunanimous jury verdicts reached before the practice was banned two years ago.
The retroactive ruling applies to all split-jury convictions reached during the 86-year stretch when Oregon was one of only two states, alongside Louisiana, to allow such verdicts.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Pro Tempore Richard Baldwin described the authorization of 10-2 and 11-1 jury verdicts in 1934 as a “self-inflicted injury” that was intended to minimize the voice of nonwhite jurors.
“We must understand that the passage of our non-unanimous jury-verdict law has not only caused great harm to people of color,” Baldwin wrote.
“That unchecked bigotry also undermined the fundamental Sixth Amendment rights of all Oregonians for nearly a century.”
Voters approved Oregon’s nonunanimous jury system after a jury handed down a light sentence in a 1933 gangland murder trial, spurring racist and xenophobic newspaper coverage that blamed the compromise verdict on immigrant jurors, The Oregonian/OregonLive previously reported.
The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed divided verdicts in its landmark Ramos v. Louisiana decision in April 2020, but the order applied only to open cases and convictions that were actively being appealed when the ruling came down.
The ruling left the door open for states to make their own laws applying it retroactively. The Oregon Legislature did not take that action, but people convicted by split juries began pursuing a ruling at the Oregon Court of Appeals last year.
The Oregon Department of Justice says the Ramos ruling vacated more than 470 convictions with active appeals, meaning that prosecutors were required to essentially reboot each case from the beginning and either pursue a new trial, cut a plea deal or dismiss the charges.
The new state Supreme Court ruling means county district attorneys will have to make a similar decision for cases where the defendant had already exhausted a final appeal.
There are approximately 300 people, mostly in state prison, with exhausted appeals who have filed new litigation because they were convicted by a nonunanimous jury before the Ramos decision, according to Aliza Kaplan, a Lewis & Clark law professor and leader of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic.>>
<<Those with newly vacated convictions are not eligible for immediate release but will be transferred from the state Department of Corrections to county jails while local prosecutors decide how to revisit each case.
Most incarcerated people have no idea if they were convicted nonunanimously, Kaplan added, because no one polled their jury after the trial. There is no central database of older split verdicts, potentially leaving some people in prison whose convictions should be voided.>>
<The Oregon District Attorneys Association has reacted skeptically to the ruling, arguing that the majority of cases that must be redone will not remedy racial discrimination, citing a state Criminal Justice Commission report that says most of the split-jury cases involve white men who were convicted of sex or assault crimes.
The association is calling on lawmakers to increase funding for the prosecutors and public defenders who must be mustered for “numerous” expected retrials.
“Retrying decades-old cases can be challenging, if not impossible,” the association said in an unsigned statement. “Violent offenders are the greatest beneficiaries of evidence that only degrades over time.”>>
<<As the year came to a close, the Portland Police Bureau reported a total of 96 confirmed homicides throughout 2022. Of those, 78 were shooting deaths.
Just over half of homicide cases, 53%, were considered “cleared” by PPB — meaning a suspect was taken into custody, a suspect was identified but had already died, or the homicide was found to be non-criminal in nature.>>
<<Due to the sustained rise in murders, PPB expanded its homicide unit in 2022 to include 24 detectives and three sergeants, or three teams of eight investigators. Regardless, according to Sgt. Kevin Allen with Portland police, the workload has increased at such a rate that detectives have struggled to keep up.
In a “normal year,” Allen said, an individual homicide detective would have no more than four homicide cases where they would serve as a primary investigator due to the amount of work that goes along with it.
But since July of 2020, PPB homicide detectives have averaged between seven and eight cases as primary each year.>>
<<There have been nine shootings involving Portland police this year, the most since the agency began posting this data in 2010. Four of them were fatal.>>
<<A specialized police team sized three guns and arrested two people on Wednesday evening, Portland Police Bureau announced Thursday.
Police said the Focused Intervention Team’s mission is “conducting self-initiated activity to interrupt the cycle of violence.”
At about 5:30 p.m., police with FIT said they stopped a Kia Forte with no license plates near Northeast Sandy Boulevard. Police said they “noticed” a passenger in the car was armed with a handgun.
They arrested the passenger, 28-year-old Cecil C. Barber of Gresham and seized the gun, a 9mm Glock 17 along with one standard size magazine and one extended magazine. Police said the gun was loaded.
Barber was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possessing a loaded firearm in public.
Around 7 p.m., FIT officers at Southeast Stark Street said they pulled over a Mercedes Benz without plates. Police said they later found expired plates in the car, which were not being “properly displayed.”
Because the driver did not have a license and was not insured, police towed the car and found a loaded 9mm Glock 17 under the passenger seat, they said. The driver, 25-year-old Devante L. Jackson of Portland was arrested and charged with possessing a firearm as a felon, unlawful possession of a firearm and possessing a loaded firearm in public. He was booked into MCDC.
Shortly before 8 p.m., East Precinct and FIT officers responded to Northeast 122nd Avenue and Northeast Siskiyou Street on a report of someone shot. They found a man in an RV with a gunshot wound to his foot.
Police determined 39-year-old Allen M. Tanner had shot himself in the foot. He was taken to the hospital and cited for shooting a gun in the city. Police said they seized a .223/5.56 caliber AR-15 Bushmaster rifle as evidence.>>
<<In the past six months, the area’s most notorious drug dealers along the stretch of Milton Street near the intersection of Northeast 82nd Avenue were arrested during police stings. So were sex traffickers who often could be found on the block, including at Madison Suites. Stolen, partially dismantled cars have been towed away. An entrenched tent city was cleared for the fifth time two months ago, and hasn’t returned. The city posted signs stating that no overnight parking was allowed – and enforced the prohibition.
Now the sidewalks are clean and void of needles, trash and tinfoil.
“The switch has certainly been flipped over there,” said Portland police officer Michael Stevens, who works on the Neighborhood Response Team and led stolen-car missions concentrated around the Madison Suites Motel.
During recent patrols, Stevens has noticed a dramatic decrease in criminal activity in the area. Along with the four men shot to death there between August 2021 and March 2022, at least half a dozen others during that period were wounded by guns.>>
<<The obvious place to start was Madison Suites, where one of the block’s homicide victims in the past year was found dead between two large metal storage containers.
First up, the Bureau of Development Services sent out an inspector, who found more than 20 code violations at the property.
Patel set to work to address the violations, and the results quickly were visible.
The windows of the one-story buildings that make up the motel are no longer boarded up. Inside the 80-year-old buildings, most of the 30 efficiency-style units sit clean and empty. Just five are occupied with renters right now; another five are in the midst of being renovated.
Patel is in the process of obtaining permits for more repairs.
“The bottom line on this property is that it has shown substantial improvement including visual appearance/atmosphere, maintenance and functionality of units, attracting clientele and removal of problematic
occupants,” Ken Ray, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Development Services, said in an email.
A “Site Security Assessment” by the Community Safety Division also recommended Patel fix broken security cameras and fencing.>>
<<The cleanup of Madison Suites was important, but it was only one part of the solution for the area. Law enforcement also played a key role. In addition to several stolen car missions by East Precinct officers,
the Portland Police Bureau’s Human Trafficking Unit undertook three missions in the “high vice” area on Northeast 82nd Avenue between June and December, including Milton Street. This included more than 60 hours of surveillance by detectives, and the effort led to 13 arrests and the seizure of more than a dozen illegal guns and a substantial amount of fentanyl and cocaine, police said.
None of the arrests took place at Madison Suites, but several suspects were associated with the property, said Sgt. Kristi Butcher who leads the Human Trafficking Unit. Three of the suspects are accused of committing crimes on Madison Suites property, Butcher said. During the investigations, the bureau identified eight victims of human trafficking, four of whom were minors.>>