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Apodaca v. Oregon


As a result of the Court's decision in Apodaca v. Oregon state court juries were able to convict defendants on the basis of a less than unanimous vote.

In 1969, an Oregon jury convicted Robert Apodaca for assault with a deadly weapon. Likewise two other juries convicted Henry Morgan Cooper, Jr., of burglary in a dwelling, and James Arnold Madden of grand larceny. But there was something unusual about these juries: in none of the trials was the vote unanimous. It was 11-1 in both Apodaca's and Madden's cases; and in Cooper's situation, the margin was 10-2, the minimum vote whereby a conviction could be obtained under Oregon state law.

At one time, it had been assumed that unless a jury could fully agree to convict a defendant, he or she could not be found guilty. This was thought necessary in order to ensure that the 12 members of the jury made their conviction "beyond all reasonable doubt." Presumably if one or two people could not agree with the majority, this suggested that reasonable doubt was possible. The Supreme Court itself had upheld this position in Duncan v. Louisiana (1968), when the majority took the position that criminal charges must be "confirmed by the unanimous suffrage of twelve jurors."

However, by the time Apodaca and the others brought their case before the U.S. Supreme Court, having been denied appeal by the Supreme Court of Oregon, the concept of jury unanimity was no longer a given. Already the Court, in Williams v. Florida (1970) had called into question the commonly accepted notion that a jury should consist of 12 people. Now it was about to consider the assumption that to be fair, a jury's verdict must be unanimous. It was a question that would be decided in two 1972 cases, Johnson v. Louisiana and Apodaca v. Oregon.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Apodaca v. Oregon - Significance, The Sixth And Fourteenth Amendment Cases, A Less Than Unanimous Court, Further Readings