By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Deschutes County will retry a former pastor convicted of child sex abuse as the result of a Supreme Court decision requiring unanimous verdicts.
In 2018, James Worley was tried and convicted in Deschutes County Circuit Court of sexually abusing an underage girl when he lived in Bend in the early 2000s.
The jury verdict was 10-2 in favor of conviction.
In April of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that all states must obtain unanimous verdicts to find someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“We were the only state in the nation that allowed convictions on less than a unanimous verdict,” said Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel. “I embrace that bar. It should be difficult to convict somebody and we should have to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with a unanimous verdict.
“I don’t shy away from that. If we can’t prove it in this case then Mr. Worley should not be convicted. If we can prove it, Mr. Worley should be convicted. So we’ll put this in front of the jury and see what they say.”
Attorney Richard Cohen, who defended Worley in 2018, is pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to require unanimous verdicts.
“I think the history behind Oregon’s exception to the national mode and Louisiana’s exception to the national mode was disgraceful,” Cohen said. “So, yes, I’m extremely pleased that it’s overturned by the United States Supreme Court. I think most of us should take satisfaction that it reflects a vote of six justices, three of whom are quite conservative.”
Worley’s retrial begins Monday.
The first hearing will likely involve setting a new bail for Worley who is still charged with child sex abuse but is otherwise innocent until proven guilty by unanimous verdict.
“When you pass an unjust law there are repercussions. The Worley case is one of those repercussions. I’ve got no problem cleaning up this mess,” Hummel said.
Eight court decisions in Deschutes County are impacted by the Supreme Court decision requiring unanimous verdicts.
Hummel believes a couple of them will settle before going to court for retrial.