State v. Scott

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 03-10-2021
  • Case #: A170781
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: DeHoog, J. for the Court; DeVore, P.J.; & Mooney, J. (concurring).
  • Full Text Opinion

"[With]... the burden on the beneficiary of the error... before a federal constitutional error can be held harmless, the court must be able to declare a belief that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt." Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 24 (1967).

At trial, Defendant was convicted of three felonies and her probation was revoked. On appeal, Defendant argued that these actions should be reversed because the court gave non-unanimous jury instructions. The State argued that the court’s error does not merit reversal because these were harmless errors. Non-unanimous jury instructions violate the Sixth Amendment when proffered for convictions of serious criminal offenses. See Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S.Ct. 1390 (2020); State v. Flores Ramos, 367 Or 292, 299 (2020) (extending the Ramos rule to Oregon courts). For constitutional violations, the burden is on the benefactor to demonstrate harmless error "beyond a reasonable doubt.” See Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 24 (1967). Here, the Court found that Defendant sufficiently preserved her objection because she asked for unanimous jury instructions. The Court also found that the State did not carry their burden because they did not request that the jury be polled to show whether a unanimous verdict was reached. Therefore, the Court held that non-unanimous jury instruction was not harmless error. Reversed and remanded.

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