Saturday, November 17, 2018

Trust Oregonians with non-unanimous juries

"We trust Oregonians with non-unanimous juries"
Guest column by Joshua Marquis, William B. Porter and Steve Leriche
Saturday, November 17, 2018

2020 UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a similar, but unconnected law in Louisiana.
As expected juries must now vote unanimously to convict, but defense attorneys, who complained that Oregon was "different" now want Oregon to be the only place in America where you must be convicted by a jury of 12, but you can be set free by just 10. Hopefully the state courts will rule the right way.

Oregon has a long history of reform and experimenting with new ideas. Whether it was requiring deposits on soft drink bottles or decriminalizing marijuana, both are changes in the law that just 40 years ago were considered revolutionary.

But in a misleading op-ed, John Hummel, who has spent his career defending criminals and is about to begin a second term as the Deschutes County District Attorney, argued that when Oregon voters overwhelmingly voted in 1934 to allow 10-to-2 jury votes on verdicts in all felony cases (except murder) that was because of the influence of the Ku Klux Klan. And yet at the exact time when this racist, xenophobic movement was supposedly happening, Oregonians voted in the state’s first independent, Jewish governor.

Unanimous juries can empower singular racist jurors, and allow them to prevent an acquittal just as much as non-unanimous juries can minimize the impact of a few minorities who might prevent an acquittal. Why is the assumption that minorities will only vote to acquit and not convict? In our experience, minority jurors are just as fair to prosecutors as all other jurors. Oregon has a very small African-American population, for example, less than 2 percent statewide versus 13 percent nationally.

The only thing non-unanimous juries do is reduce hung juries. And the only thing unanimous juries do is increase hung juries. Each is true regardless of race. So the only question is do we want more hung juries or not?

The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association has been trying to attack our current non-unanimous jury system for the past 20 years. Until the last couple of years, that organization never publicly claimed it was racist. Now they are doing it as a tactic and it should only be recognized as such.

Hummel has been the Deschutes County DA for four years. His prosecutors have been convicting criminals in jury trials under our current law all that time. If he thinks our current law is racist, has he ordered his prosecutors to insist upon unanimous jury trials in all cases? Is he now saying all those convictions that were not unanimous were done in a racist manner? Is he moving to reverse them? Is he calling out his own prosecutors as racist? If not, it is the height of hypocrisy for him to get on his high horse now.

To claim that Oregon was in the grip of the KKK at that point in our state’s history is laughably ignorant or deliberately deceptive. The law passed by voters granted defendants the exclusive right to decide that a judge -- not a jury -- decide whether the prosecution had proven their guilt. To this day, most states require both sides to “waive jury,” but in 1934 Oregon voters gave criminal defendants that exclusive right. They also required that an overwhelming majority of jurors agree as to guilt or innocence. Except in murder cases, where an accused killer must convince just 10 jurors that the evidence isn’t strong enough and he walks.

To compare Oregon with Louisiana, which allowed murder convictions and life sentences on a 10-to-2 vote, is historically inaccurate. Louisiana passed its law as part of its rejection of reconstruction in 1880, and resulted in nationally high conviction rates for black defendants. Oregon passed its law half a century later in the context of reforms that may seem modest today, like separating adult and juvenile prisoners.

As prosecutors who have argued hundreds of jury trials -- and lost our share -- we trust Oregon jurors to listen to the evidence and render a just verdict. Clearly others don’t have the same confidence in their fellow Oregonians.

Joshua Marquis is the Clatstop County District Attorney; William B. Porter is the Tillamook County District Attorney and Steve Leriche is the Jefferson County District Attorney.

Read the column and comments on

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hammond fisherman convicted

The wheel of Justice is always turning. Sometimes it turns slowly.

"Well-known Hammond fisherman convicted of sex abuse," Jack Heffernan for The Daily Astorian, November 13, 2018.

Dennis Sturgell
>>>A well-known Hammond fisherman was found guilty Tuesday of sex abuse and bribery charges stemming from a day of drinking and drug use with a young woman in 2015.
Dennis Lee Sturgell, 66, was convicted of four counts of first-degree sodomy, two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration and one count of second-degree sex abuse after jurors found that the woman did not or was unable to give consent.  . .  .
Dept DA Dawn Buzzard
Daniel Wendel, an attorney with the Oregon Department of Justice, and Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard prosecuted Sturgell. Wendel was the lead prosecutor due to a number of direct or indirect relationships local police have with the victim.
“The DA’s office is very proud of the fine work of Senior Deputy DA Dawn Buzzard and Assistant Attorney General Dan Wendel and the hard work of all the jurors,” District Attorney Josh Marquis said in a statement. “Nobody is above the law.” <<<

Saturday, November 10, 2018


From 1995, at KMUN 91.9fm. I'm still there, first and third Mondays, 6:00-8:00pm, and am honored to have been recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the governing body, the Tillicum Foundation.