Amidst nationwide protests against police brutality, Oregon is undergoing strides in the criminal justice sector. As a result of the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that non-unanimous juries violate the Constitution, Oregon’s top court has begun reversing convictions decided by divided juries.
The Oregon Supreme Court announced on May 28 that it has vacated the sentences of 19 defendants who were convicted by non-unanimous juries, marking the beginning of a long road to reversing 269 cases decided by divided juries in the state of Oregon. These 19 cases will now be going back to trial court, where local attorneys will decide to either retry the cases or to drop the charges entirely.
Only two of the 19 defendants whose cases are being focused on right now are of Black ethnicity. This directly contradicts a recent analysis done by Willamette Weekly, finding that Black individuals are overrepresented in the non-unanimous jury convictions category.
Three cases of interest include State of Oregon v. Ray Eggleston, State of Oregon v. Myron Lee Newell, and State of Oregon v. James Lin Browning.
Ray Eggleston is a 56-year-old unhoused Black man, who was convicted of assault for allegedly throwing a metal thermos at a woman’s head, who then suffered severe nerve and tissue damage. Eggleston claimed that the woman’s boyfriend had actually thrown the thermos, and that he had admittedly punched her. In the end, the jury decided in an 11-1 conviction that Eggleston was guilty, and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Myron Lee Newell, a 91-year-old white man, was convicted in an 11-1 jury vote for sexually abusing a child under the age of 14. Newell was sentenced to 75 months in prison. Because of the recent overturning of non-unanimous juries, his case is under review.
James Lin Browning is a 49-year-old white man who was charged with sexual abuse and sodomy of a young girl. His case includes a pretext call that reveals him admitting to the crime, claiming to be intoxicated during the acts, and “not in his mind.” The jury found Browning guilty on seven counts of sexual abuse, and the verdicts in all seven were non-unanimous, six of them by 11-1 and one by 10-2. Browning was sentenced to 150 months in prison.
By Cara Nixon