Jury Trials

CRIME VICTIMS UNITED


Who Should Have the Right to a Jury Trial?

We have all learned that a defendant has a right to a trial by a jury of his peers. This fundamental right, enunciated in the United States Constitution, protects the defendant from biased and incompetent judges. What protects the victim from biased and incompetent judges? In Oregon, they have no such protection. To understand what this means to victims, see the case of Duane Hayes.

Under current Oregon law, the defendant can demand a jury trial or request a "judicial" trial, in which the judge alone hears the evidence and pronounces the verdict. Defense attorneys choose jury trials if the judge is strict and judicial trials if the judge is lenient. This means that the playing field is tilted from the very start in every single case. Some judges in this state are so lenient that they almost never preside over a jury trial.

Contrary to common belief, there is no defendant's right to a judicial trial in the U.S. Constitution.

Many states allow the prosecutor, as well as the defense attorney, to demand a jury trial.

In 1996, the voters of Oregon amended the Oregon Constitution to allow the prosecutor to demand a jury trial by passing Measure 40. The Oregon legislature then passed Senate Bill 936, which put the same provision in statutory law. In 1998, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Measure 40 invalid on narrow technical grounds.

In 1999, the voters again voted on this issue, in the form of Measure 70. Opposition groups funded almost entirely by defense attorneys mounted a campaign of distortion against Measure 70. It was defeated by a margin of 58% to 42%.

Here are some of the arguments that appeared in the November 1999 Voter's Pamphlet.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Everyone in America has an absolute right to a jury trial. In Oregon, this is a trial by either 6 or 12 members of the community, depending upon the seriousness of the crime. But Oregon is one of a very small number of states that allow an accused criminal to bypass a jury and ask that a judge alone determine his/her guilt.

Measure 70 would require agreement by both the defendant and the prosecution in order to bypass the constitutional right to a jury trial.

In most parts of the world the government insists that professional judges decide the guilt or innocence of criminal defendants. The American judicial system is unique, even in the English-speaking nations, in its belief in the wisdom of the common person. The system trusts that a slice of the community will almost always be able to determine the true facts of a situation.

The vast majority of judges operating in the American system are fair. but a few are known to be particularly lenient in some kinds of cases or to certain lawyers. These judges tend to be well-known to professional criminal defense lawyers, who then try to steer their cases in to that judge's courtroom. Under Oregon's current system, a criminal defendant, and only a criminal defendant (never the prosecution) can waive a jury and ask the judge to decide the case. There is no guarantee of a "judge trial" in either the Oregon or federal constitution.

The Constitution guarantees many rights; the Right to be free from unreasonable searches, the Right to be represented by counsel, and the Right to a fair and public trial.

Just as the Right to a Public Trial belongs to the community - not just to the accused criminal - shouldn't the Right to a Jury Trial belong to EVERYONE as well?

Give the community equal rights to criminals, and vote YES ON Measure 70.

(This information furnished by Josh Marquis.)

 

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION

Twenty-six years ago, my sister was murdered by a drug dealer. It's one of the defining moments in my life that led me to become a prosecutor and a state representative.

As both a victim of crime and an officer of the court, I oppose Measures 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75.

As a prosecutor, my conviction rate is over 90 percent. most of the state's district attorneys have similar conviction rates. Prosecutors don't need more power than judges in our courtrooms, and that's exactly what some of these measures do.

In fact, some of these measures will give government prosecutors the same kind of power as Kenneth Starr. That's not the Oregon way.

As a prosecutor, I am sworn to uphold Oregon's Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights protects Oregon citizens from overzealous government prosecutors, ensuring that our trials are fair and that both victims and defendants receive justice.

Gutting Oregon's Bill of Rights will not reduce crime.

While these measures are billed as helping victims of crime, voters must remember they take rights away from every Oregon citizen... rights granted to us under our Oregon Bill of Rights. These measure won't do anything to reduce crime, but they will place innocent Oregonians at greater risk.

These Measures Could Cost Taxpayers Millions of Dollars.

The money we spend on these measures could be used to put more police on our streets or spend more money on educating our children. Education reduces crime and victimization. We should reduce crime, not eliminate protections guaranteed all citizens under the Oregon Bill of Rights.

As a crime victim and a prosecutor, I urge you to vote no on Measures 70-75.

Thank you.

Floyd Prozanski

Municipal Prosecutor and State Representative

(This information furnished by State Representative Floyd Prozanski.)

 


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