Tacuma Jackson was 26 when he was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a split jury. In any of the other 48 United States, besides Liousiana, a single juror’s vote of not guilty would have been enough to prevent conviction. However, in Oregon, this system remained for over eight decades until 2020 when the U.S Supreme Court banned non-unanimous jury verdicts. For Tacuma, and law professor Aliza Kaplan, the ruling represents an opportunity to demand justice for the roughly 400 people who were wrongfully convicted in Oregon. Split Jury details the life of Tacuma, a year after being released, as he navigates fragile relationships, rebuilds the life he left behind, and waits for the Oregon Supreme Court to decide whether he and hundreds of others will ever see justice, or be forced to carry the burden of their felony convictions for the rest of their lives.
Aliza Kaplan is a Law Professor at Lewis & Clark Law School who for the past 7 years has been fighting to reform Oregon's Non-Unanimous Jury System.
Split Jury Chronicles the final few months leading up to the end of 2022 and a historic Oregon Supreme court decision that would change not only Tacuma's life but that of countless other Oregonians still seeking justice for wrongful convictions.
There has never been a shortage of flaws in the U.S criminal justice system, and while some states’ reform efforts may appear more forward thinking than others, laws like Oregon’s non-unanimous jury system serve as a reminder that the past is not so distant, and decisions made then still impact people’s lives today.
The vision for the film was to chronicle how this law came to be, and while the information was clear, the bigger challenge then became bringing forward the human element and emotions that often get lost in conversations about a system well known for being dehumanizing. Through scenic imagery of a cold dreary Oregon winter, combined with Tacuma and Aliza’s passionate struggle to help repair the harm that has been done by this law, we hope that Split Jury leaves the audience informed about the lingering effects of this dated legislation, and moved by the courageous journey of a few devout advocates.