High court won’t make unanimous jury requirement retroactive

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says that prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries before the high court barred the practice a year ago don’t need to be retried.

The justices ruled 6-3 Monday along conservative-liberal lines that prisoners whose cases had concluded before the justices’ 2020 ruling shouldn’t benefit from it.

The decision affects prisoners who were convicted in Louisiana and Oregon as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the few places that had allowed criminal convictions based on divided jury votes.

In March last year, Oregon’s top two courts began reversing convictions by nonunanimous juries, the first of hundreds — and perhaps ultimately thousands — of cases that were scrutinized after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that nonunanimous jury verdicts are unconstitutional.

The Oregon Supreme Court returned 16 cases to the trial courts.

The Court of Appeal reversed convictions in three other cases and remanded them to the trial courts.

“The county prosecutor can decide to drop the charges, proceed with the charges or, perhaps, try to negotiate a settlement,” said Marc Brown, an Oregon public defender who works on appeals. “For example, there may be a case in which the defendant already served most of their sentence, so the prosecutor may offer time served in exchange for a plea.”

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