AG Rosenblum Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Edwards v. Vannoy

May 17, 2021
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Updated Statement from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on today’s United State Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Vannoy:

“This morning the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Edwards v. Vannoy, ruling on the issue of whether the right to a unanimous jury verdict in criminal cases (announced last year in Ramos v. Louisiana) applies to older cases where final judgments have already been entered. The Court ruled that under federal law the right to a unanimous jury for serious criminal offenses applies to new cases going forward and cases currently on appeal, but does not require the retrial of criminal convictions already final when Ramos was decided.

“My office remains committed to reviewing every case presented to us that involves a request for a new trial. We are carefully reviewing the Edwards decision, and will be working expeditiously on a plan for addressing these cases going forward.

“It is my sincere hope to work collaboratively with the courts, prosecutors, defendants and their defense counsel, crime victims, the criminal and racial justice advocacy community, as well as the legislature, to ensure these cases are given full and fair consideration.

“We at the Oregon Department of Justice remain dedicated to the goals of equal access to justice and to applying the lens of justice, equity and fairness to all matters that we are involved in.”

Statement updated to add:

“We now have the guidance we have been waiting for from the U.S. Supreme Court (Edwards v. Vannoy decision). The Edwards case held that Ramos is not retroactive, but also provided guidance that states may apply a different retroactivity rule for state post-conviction cases than from the federal rule. The current law in Oregon (based on appellate case law) is that we follow federal law on retroactivity of new federal procedural rule changes, such as the Ramos rule requiring unanimous jury verdicts for serious offenses. Thus, even though Edwards reiterated that the state may make its own determination as to retroactivity, reconsideration of the current state of the law in Oregon won’t happen overnight. In fact, it could well be a year or two before we get a ruling on this issue from the Oregon Supreme Court.

“On the other hand, the issue of retroactivity is a matter of both policy and law and could—and should—be addressed much sooner and expeditiously. This could be done by the legislative branch of our government.   The legislature could, reasonably quickly, pass a law focused exclusively on retroactivity with regard to cases impacted by the Ramos/Edwards decisions that are post-appeal, with a clear set of guidelines and criteria for how determinations should be made. With due respect to the current Session that is extremely busy with a full plate of bills, hearings and floor votes, this is also a matter of urgency. There are hundreds of adults in custody in Oregon prisons who may have been convicted on at least one count by a non-unanimous jury. They are petitioning for retrials, like the 400-plus cases that were on direct appeal at the time of the Ramos decision and that did receive retroactive treatment. (Federal law distinguishes between cases still on appeal and those older cases that are past their appeals.)

“I am calling on the legislature to, as soon as possible, convene an informational hearing to discuss how the legislature can assist in the expeditious resolution of these cases. My office can make a full presentation of the legal background of the Ramos and Edwards cases along with presentations from the defense bar, advocacy groups and other interested parties. If the legislature decides to apply the new rule retroactively to post conviction cases, my office stands ready to help implement any policy decision it may make.”