Oregon: bills would require judges accept corporations as jurors; judges would have to provide jury nullification instructions

Three Oregon bills introduced late last week would change the way juries in that state function.

HB 3385 would require that judges and courts accept corporations as jurors. The state’s existing jury statute (ORS 10.030) would be supplemented with a new paragraph (4)

Any corporation organized under the laws of this state is eligible to act as a juror in a civil or criminal trial or as a grand juror. The corporation must act as a juror or grand juror through an individual agent of the corporation who would be eligible to act as a juror or grand juror under subsection (2) or (3) of this section.

Two other Oregon bills would change the way the courts handle juries in criminal cases, mandating the use of jury nullification instructions.

HB 3381 is the more limited of the two and focuses exclusively on cases where there are mandatory minimum sentences under ORS 137.700 (Offenses requiring imposition of mandatory minimum sentences) and or 137.707 (Adult prosecution of 15-, 16- or 17-year-old offenders; mandatory minimum sentences)

During a criminal jury trial in which a defendant is charged with an offense described in ORS 137.700 or 137.707, before the jury begins deliberations, the court shall:

(1) Inform the jury of any sentence that the court is required to impose if the defendant is convicted of the offense described in ORS 137.700 or 137.707; and

(2) Instruct the jury as follows: “As jurors, if you feel that a conviction would not be a fair or just result in this case, it is within your power to find the defendant not guilty.”

SB 734 would cover any and all criminal cases and charges

During a criminal jury trial in which a defendant is charged with a felony, before the jury begins deliberations, the court shall instruct the jury as follows: “As jurors, if you feel that a conviction would not be a fair or just result in this case, it is within your power to find the defendant not guilty even if you find that the state has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Because all three bills were introduced late last week they have not yet been assigned to committees.