Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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In this case, the state issued a subpoena for a witness against defendant Kenneth Harris, and the witness did not appear for trial. The state then offered hearsay evidence in lieu of live testimony, arguing that the witness’s failure to appear in response to the subpoena sufficed to establish her unavailability. Defendant argued that a witness is unavailable for confrontation purposes only when the state has exhausted all reasonable means of securing the appearance of the witness. Once the state became aware that its witness would not appear, he argued, it could have taken any number of additional actions to secure her appearance, but did not do so. The trial court offered to continue the trial to allow the state to take such additional steps, but defendant objected. The trial court then concluded that the state had made reasonable efforts to produce the witness and admitted the hearsay. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that “more could have been done” to produce the witness at trial. The Oregon Supreme Court did not decide whether the state reasonably should have pursued those other measures. Defendant did not explain, and the Supreme Court did not understand, “how the state can be faulted for failing to obtain a continuance to pursue other means of producing the witness when defendant objected to the state being allowed to do just that.” The Court surmised: by objecting to the state being allowed to take further measures to produce its witness, defendant essentially invited any error that may have resulted, and invited error is no basis for reversal. The Supreme Court rejected the state’s contention that the unavailability requirement of Article I, section 11, was satisfied when a witness fails to comply with a subpoena. The state must exhaust reasonably available measures for producing the witness. In so holding, however, the Court reiterated that the rule was one of reasonableness under the circumstances of the individual case. Under the circumstances here, defendant was in no position to complain that the trial court erred in concluding that the victim was unavailable for confrontation purposes and in admitting the 9-1-1 recording of her report. The decision of the Court of Appeals was reversed. View "Oregon v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Carvel Dillard was charged with four counts of sexual abuse in the second degree and four counts of prostitution. The indictment alleged crimes against two victims. Petitioner was not represented by counsel at trial. A jury found petitioner not guilty of the counts involving one of the victims, but found petitioner guilty of two counts involving the other victim. Petitioner unsuccessfully pursued a direct appeal. Petitioner then filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief. He alleged (1) prosecutorial misconduct that, he claimed, violated his federal rights to a fair trial and due process under Brady v. Maryland, 373 US 83 (1963), and that could not reasonably have been raised and preserved before or during his trial proceedings; (2) trial court errors, including denial of appointed counsel, that, he alleged, could not effectively have been raised and preserved during the trial proceedings; (3) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; and (4) actual innocence. Defendant, Superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary, filed a motion pursuant to ORCP 21 A(8) to dismiss the petition for failure to state ultimate facts sufficient to constitute post-conviction claims. Petitioner was represented by counsel for the hearing on his motion, and, although the pro se petition at issue requested a hearing, counsel did not request a hearing on defendant’s motion, and the post-conviction court did not grant a hearing. Instead, the court found defendant’s arguments persuasive, adopted them, and granted defendant’s motion. Subsequently, the court entered a general judgment dismissing the action “with prejudice.” Defendant conceded dismissal of the action “with prejudice” was made in error. The question this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether, as defendant argued, ORS 138.525(3) bars an appellate court from correcting that error. The Supreme Court concluded the legislature did not intend to preclude appellate correction of the post-conviction court’s error. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "Dillard v. Premo" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Michael Haynes sought judicial review of a final order of the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision that denied his petition to change the terms of his life imprisonment to allow for the possibility of release. The Court of Appeals dismissed the case because petitioner’s appointed counsel missed the deadline for filing a petition for judicial review in that court. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed review to consider whether petitioner, who was statutorily entitled to be assisted by counsel on review, should or must be allowed to proceed with his untimely petition for review when the late filing was entirely due to neglect by appointed counsel. Petitioner argued that his statutory right to counsel must be construed as a right to adequate counsel, that he was denied that statutory right when his counsel missed the filing deadline for judicial review, and that this court should address the statutory violation by excusing the untimely filing. Petitioner also contends that a denial of judicial review under these circumstances violated his due process rights. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded petitioner was not entitled to relief: jurisdiction for judicial review of a board order is a creation of statute, and even if petitioner was correct that he had a statutory right to adequate counsel on review which has been denied because of appellate counsel’s late filing, he was not correct that the appropriate remedy was to excuse the jurisdictional requirement of a timely petition. View "Haynes v. Board of Parole" on Justia Law

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If an individual has been released on both probation and post-prison supervision subject to the same or similar conditions, a single act may violate the conditions of both probation and post-prison supervision. Defendant Matthew Richards was sentenced on two different criminal offenses and was subject to both probation and post-prison supervision at the same time. A condition of both was that he not change addresses without permission. He did not comply with that condition. As a result, the official who supervised his post-prison supervision on one offense imposed a sanction of three days in jail. The trial court imposed an additional sanction of revoking his probation on the other offense and sentenced him to a term of imprisonment on that offense. The issue in this case was whether the trial court had authority to do so. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court does have such authority. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed and affirmed. View "Oregon v. Richards" on Justia Law

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The question in this case was whether K.A.M. was stopped during the search of a drug house when a detective came upon youth and a friend in one of the bedrooms, told K.A.M.'s friend to “stay off the meth,” asked them their names, and then asked whether they had anything illegal on them. Because the trial court ruled that no stop occurred, it denied K.A.M.'s motion to suppress evidence discovered during the encounter. The Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, agreeing that no stop had occurred. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded after a review of the trial court record, however, a stop occurred, it reversed the Court of Appeals decision and the trial court’s judgment. View "Oregon v. K. A. M." on Justia Law

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The parties in this case raised the issue of whether the natural dissipation of alcohol in a suspect’s body created such an emergency that police officers could enter a suspect’s home without a warrant in order to secure the suspect’s blood-alcohol evidence. Police officers entered the home of defendant Randall Ritz, without a warrant, to secure evidence of his blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) after having probable cause to believe that he had been driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), a misdemeanor offense. The state argued that the warrantless entry was justified because the natural dissipation of alcohol in defendant’s body is a type of destruction of evidence that establishes an exigent circumstance. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress the blood-alcohol evidence. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed. The record did not establish the officers reasonably believed, at the time that they entered defendant’s home, that obtaining a warrant would have delayed preserving evidence that was dissipating. The state therefore failed to establish that the officers reasonably believed that they were faced with an exigency in this case. The Court recognized that, by deciding this case on the facts, it was not resolving the legal question that the parties raised, namely, what factors should be considered in determining whether an exigency search is justified. “However, because the state failed to establish the existence of an exigency, the state cannot justify its warrantless search as an exigency search, regardless of what other factors should be considered or how those factors should be weighed.” View "Oregon v. Ritz" on Justia Law

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Defendant Thomas Eastep arranged to sell another person’s truck for scrap. At the time, the truck was in a significant state of disrepair. He was charged with, and ultimately convicted of, unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV). At trial, he argued that the state had failed to prove that he had used another person’s “vehicle,” because the truck that he had arranged to sell was in a state of significant disrepair and was not currently operable. The trial court disagreed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. On review, defendant argued that, at least as used in the statute defining the offense of UUV, a “vehicle” must be capable of operation, and there is no evidence that the truck was capable of operation. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the state that the word “vehicle,” as it was used in ORS 164.135(1)(a), included no requirement of either current operability or capability of operation with only ordinary repairs. A vehicle may remain a “vehicle” within the meaning of that statute even if it needs more significant, but still reasonable, repairs. In this case, however, the state failed to establish that the truck that defendant had arranged to sell was in such a condition that it would have been reasonable to restore it to an operable condition. The Court therefore reversed defendant’s conviction. View "Oregon v. Eastep" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant Joaquin Sierra of nine offenses: one count of first-degree kidnapping; two counts of second-degree kidnapping; one count of fourth-degree assault; and five counts of unlawful use of a weapon (UUW). The state did not allege enhancement factors. The trial court sentenced defendant to a total of 250 months in prison. The court imposed a 110-month sentence on the conviction for first-degree kidnapping, two consecutive 70-month sentences on the convictions for second-degree kidnapping, and concurrent sentences of 14 months or less on the remaining convictions (including all of defendant’s UUW convictions). On review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the evidence did not support the convictions for two counts of second-degree kidnapping because the state had failed to prove the act element, reversed defendant’s convictions on those counts and remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing. On remand, a different judge, who did not preside over defendant’s original trial, imposed a longer total sentence than had the original trial court. This case presented two issues for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review: (1) whether Oregon common law or the federal Double Jeopardy Clause precluded the second sentencing court from imposing new sentences on defendant’s convictions for unlawful use of a weapon (UUW) because defendant already had served the previously imposed sentences; and (2) whether the Due Process Clause, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 US 711 (1969), and by the Oregon Court in Oregon v. Partain, 349 Or 10 (2010), precluded the imposition of a more severe sentence than originally imposed. The answer to both questions was no. The Oregon Court affirmed the trial court and appellate courts. View "Oregon v. Sierra" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death for killing a fifteen-year-old girl, HF. The state’s theory of the case was that petitioner had killed HF intentionally in furtherance of, or in an effort to conceal, the commission of sexual offenses against her. The state presented evidence that petitioner drugged HF with morphine, raped her, strangled her to death, then threw her body off a bridge. The sole defense theory presented by his trial counsel was that HF had not died as theorized by the state, but, instead, had died of drowning after petitioner threw her off the bridge. As a consequence, counsel argued, petitioner was entitled to an acquittal because the state had not initiated the prosecution in the county in which he had drowned HF. That defense was unsuccessful, and the jury convicted petitioner and sentenced him to death. Petitioner argued on appeal that, because, based on the evidence in the record, the jury could have found that the place of HF’s death could not be readily determined, and a venue defense was not viable in light of the alternative venue provisions of ORS 131.325. Counsel’s sole reliance on a weak technical defense made the penalty phase of his trial much more challenging. Petitioner asserted counsel should have pursued a morphine-overdose theory of the case, in light of petitioner’s statement to his defense team that he woke up after having sex with HF and discovered that she was dead. Petitioner further asserted that, if counsel had consulted a toxicologist, they would have developed credible evidence that HF died of a drug overdose, thus rebutting the state’s evidence that she died by strangulation. The post-conviction court agreed with petitioner with respect to that claim and, accordingly, granted relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court did not view the relevant inquiry as how many experts should have been consulted; the “evaluation of counsel’s adequacy was more nuanced than that.” The Court determined the dispositive issue, rather, was whether adequate trial counsel would have attempted to develop a theory of defense that HF already was dead from a drug overdose when petitioner threw her body off the bridge. The Court concluded petitioner demonstrated that counsel’s failure to adequately investigate that defense affected the result of his trial. The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court were affirmed. View "Johnson v. Premo" on Justia Law

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Defendant Catherine Garcia was charged with two counts of interfering with a peace officer and one count of resisting arrest for her actions to prevent officers from arresting her boyfriend at a political march. At trial, defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal on the interfering counts, arguing that ORS 162.247(3) prohibited the state from charging her with both interfering and resisting arrest for the same acts. The trial court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals reversed, agreeing with defendant that the legislature had intended to preclude double charging. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court was asked to determine the import of ORS 162.247(3)(a) and whether the trial court erred by denying defendant’s motion and submitting both sets of charges to the jury when, as the parties agreed, the statute would not permit conviction on both. The Court concluded ORS 162.247(3)(a) did not preclude the state from alleging interfering and resisting arrest as alternative charges, even when based on the same acts, and, when the defendant disputed the charges, that the trial court should submit both charges to the jury with an appropriate instruction or verdict form. In this case, the trial court properly submitted all the charges to the jury. Therefore, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. View "Oregon v. Garcia" on Justia Law