Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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Defendant Christopher Warren was charged with multiple offenses in a single indictment. Defendant demurred to the indictment on the ground that it did not allege the basis for joining the charges. The trial court disallowed the demurrer, the case proceeded to a jury trial, and defendant was convicted. Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that an indictment that charges a defendant with more than one offense must allege the basis for joining the charges, but that any error in the indictment in this case was harmless. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed defendant's conviction. View "Oregon v. Warren" on Justia Law

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While on patrol, Officer Klopfenstein stopped a van because one of its headlights was out. There were three passengers in the minivan. After asking the driver for his identification, the officer asked the driver about the passengers, and the driver explained that he had just met them. Klopfenstein returned to his patrol car to ask dispatch to run a records check on the driver. Klopfenstein noticed that one of the passengers in the back seat was acting as if he were extremely intoxicated. Klopfenstein asked that passenger for identification. The passenger responded that he did not have any identification that his name was Jonathan Shaw. When Klopfenstein asked Shaw to spell his name, Shaw gave multiple, inconsistent spellings of Jonathan. At some point, Klopfenstein directed his attention toward defendant Cassandra Stevens, who was sitting in the back seat next to Shaw. Defendant told him her name and added that she was on parole. A records check confirmed that defendant was on parole. After Klopfenstein implied that he would be speaking with defendant’s parole officer, defendant told him Shaw’s real name - Jimmy. Klopfenstein called defendant’s parole officer and the parole officer told Klopfenstein she recently had found a backpack with pills in it and that she thought that the pills belonged to Shaw. The parole officer explained that defendant had been with Shaw when the pills were found in the backpack and that, if defendant was with Shaw again, “it was [the parole officer’s] opinion that [defendant] was *** likely using drugs again.” A subsequent search and discovery of drugs in defendant's backpack lead to her arrest for possession. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed review in this case to decide whether stopping the driver of the van constituted a seizure of the passengers. The trial court ruled that defendant was not stopped until an officer asked her for consent to search her backpack, and it accordingly denied her motion to suppress evidence discovered during the search. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling but on a different ground: it determined that the stop did not occur until after defendant had consented to a search of her backpack.The Supreme Court held the stop occurred before defendant gave consent and that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion at that point, thereby reversing the Court of Appeals decision and the trial court’s judgment. View "Oregon v. Stevens" on Justia Law

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Defendant Dustin Kimbrough wished to have people killed and witnesses scared, so he sought to hire a hitman. For that, he was charged with and found guilty of several counts of attempted solicitation of aggravated murder and attempted solicitation of murder, which he did not challenge on appeal. The question before the Oregon Supreme Court asked whether defendant could also be convicted of attempting to commit the substantive crimes that he wanted the hitman to commit? After reviewing the text and history of Oregon’s attempt statute, the Court concluded that he could not. View "Oregon v. Kimbrough" on Justia Law

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The state filed an interlocutory appeal of a circuit court’s two pretrial rulings suppressing evidence. Defendant Homer Lee Jackson, III was charged with 12 counts of aggravated murder, relating to the deaths of four victims that occurred in the 1980s. He was brought to the police station for questioning regarding those offenses in October 2015, and the present appeal centered on the trial court’s suppression of evidence derived from a two-day interrogation. Defendant was a schizophrenic, and had a fairly long history of interactions with police in the Portland area. Defendant did not appear to have been a suspect early in the investigation, but he became a suspect after subsequent examination of the evidence. The trial court concluded that certain inculpatory statements that defendant had made during and immediately after the interrogation were not voluntary. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err when it entered orders suppressing defendant’s statements made to the detectives during his interrogation as well as his admission to his sister during the telephone call at the conclusion of the interrogation. Accordingly, the suppression orders were affirmed. View "Oregon v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Brian Bement admitted that, on March 13, 2010, he shot and killed Greenspan. Defendant was a drug dealer, and Greenspan was a naturopathic physician who had invested in defendant’s drug dealing operation. The state argued that defendant killed Greenspan after robbing him of $20,000. But defendant maintained that the state had it backwards: Greenspan tried to rob defendant of $20,000, and defendant shot Greenspan in self-defense. To establish Greenspan’s motive for the robbery, defendant argued Greenspan viewed himself as being in significant financial trouble and in desperate need of money. As proof, defendant offered, among other things, 11 emails that Greenspan wrote in the months leading up to his death. The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review required it to consider when an out-of-court statement reflecting a declarant’s state of mind was hearsay and, if so, when the statement falls within a hearsay exception. During the criminal trial, the court admitted some email statements written by the victim, but excluded others as hearsay. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the excluded email statements were either not hearsay or were hearsay that fell within an exception to the hearsay rule for statements offered to prove the declarant’s state of mind. The Supreme Court concurred with the Court of Appeals and affirmed that court’s judgment. View "Oregon v. Bement" on Justia Law

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As police officers converged on a house to execute a search warrant, they encountered defendant Benjamin Madden sitting in a car in the driveway. They seized and handcuffed him, brought him into the house, kept him there while they proceeded with the search, questioned him after the house was secured, and then obtained his consent to a search of the car where they first had encountered him. The police officers’ questioning and search produced evidence that the State sought to use in prosecuting defendant on drug and weapons charges. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was the product of a warrantless seizure and an interrogation that were conducted without a reasonable suspicion that he had committed any crime, in violation of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that the conduct of the police was justified under an “officer safety” rationale. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the initial seizure and transportation of defendant into the house were justified for officer safety reasons, but that steps that the police took thereafter (continuing defendant’s detention after the house was secured, moving him to a separate room, and questioning him) could not "reasonably be ascribed to the officers’ safety concerns." Because the evidence at issue was the product of that later conduct, defendant’s motion to suppress should have been granted, unless the officers had an independent constitutional justification for continuing the detention. The Court therefore reverse the contrary decisions by the trial court and Court of Appeals, and remanded to the trial court to determine whether the police conduct was justified under an alternative rationale: a reasonable suspicion on the part of the police that defendant had committed a crime. View "Oregon v. Madden" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Dante Farmer was convicted of murder with a firearm. He sought post-conviction relief, arguing that his defense counsel was constitutionally inadequate for, among other things, deciding not to call a defense expert who would have testified that a gun seized from another suspect’s residence was “likely” the murder weapon. The post-conviction court agreed with petitioner and ordered a new trial. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the post-conviction court’s judgment. View "Farmer v. Premo" on Justia Law

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Law enforcement officers seized and searched defendant Catalin Dulfu's computer and duplicated its hard drive. During a search of the duplicated hard drive, a forensic investigator discovered computer files containing visual recordings of sexually explicit conduct involving children. The state charged defendant with crimes based on 15 of the files. Defendant argued on appeal that the trial court erred in calculating his criminal history score under the felony sentencing guidelines. Under the guidelines, prior convictions generally increase a defendant’s criminal history score, unless they arose out of the same criminal episode as the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced. In this case, defendant was convicted of multiple crimes based on child pornography on his computer. Over defendant’s objection, the court increased defendant’s criminal history score after it sentenced him for each of the crimes, until it reached the maximum criminal history score. The Oregon Supreme Court determined a conviction does not count toward a defendant’s criminal history score if, for double jeopardy purposes, it arose out of the same criminal episode as the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced. Therefore, the trial court erred in using defendant's convictions for those crimes to increase his criminal history score as it did. View "Oregon v. Dulfu" on Justia Law

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Defendant Robert Langley, Jr. was convicted on 16 counts of aggravated murder in 1989. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed 15 of those convictions in Oregon v. Langley, 839 P2d 692 (1992), adh’d to on recons, 861 P2d 1012 (1993) (Langley I), but vacated defendant’s death sentence and remanded his case for a new penalty-phase trial. The Supreme Court has since done so twice more, first in "Langley II," 16 P3d 489 (2000), and "Langley III," 273 P3d 901 (2012). This automatic and direct review proceeding arose as the result of the death sentence imposed on defendant in 2014 following his fourth penalty-phase trial. On review, defendant raised 77 assignments of error, only 12 of which the Supreme Court determined warranted discussion. Those 12 issues encompassed four broad contentions: (1) the penalty- phase trial court judge was, or appeared to be, biased and should not have presided over the proceeding; (2) the court erroneously admitted evidence not specific to defendant regarding the second capital sentencing question set out at ORS 163.150(1)(b)(B); (3) the court failed to expressly preclude jury consideration of aggravation evidence regarding the fourth capital sentencing question set out at ORS 163.150(1)(b)(D); and (4) the court erroneously applied sentencing-only remand provisions in capital cases arising before the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 US 302 (1989). Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed defendant’s sentence of death. View "Oregon v. Langley" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved two post-conviction relief cases, which arose out of the same underlying criminal case and were consolidated for review. In Bogle v. Oregon, petitioner Tracey Bogle, who was represented by counsel, filed pro se motions pursuant to Church v. Gladden, 417 P2d 993 (1966). The post-conviction court denied the pro se motions, and, after a hearing on the merits of the grounds for relief that counsel had raised, the court denied relief. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the court had erred by failing to consider his pro se grounds for relief or, alternatively, by failing either to instruct counsel to raise them or to make a record of its reasons for not instructing counsel to do so. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that petitioner could raise his pro se grounds for relief in a subsequent post-conviction case. Both petitioner and the state petitioned for review, and the Oregon Supreme Court allowed both petitions. On review, the parties disputed what actions a post-conviction court had to take in response to a Church motion. The parties also disputed what effect the filing of such a motion has on whether the petitioner could raise the ground for relief in a subsequent post-conviction case, given that ORS 138.550(3) provided that any ground for relief that was not raised in a petitioner’s first post-conviction case was deemed waived, unless it could not reasonably have been raised in the first case. The Supreme Court held that in a case under facts similar to here, the question for the post-conviction court is whether the petitioner has established that counsel’s failure to raise the ground for relief constitutes a failure to exercise reasonable professional skill and judgment. If so, then the court must exercise its discretion to either replace or instruct counsel. "The purpose of such a motion is for petitioner to seek to have counsel raise the ground for relief in the current post-conviction case; it is not to enable the petitioner to avoid claim preclusion under ORS 138.550(3) and raise the ground in a subsequent post-conviction case." Applying those holdings, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the post-conviction court and the decision of the Court of Appeals in Bogle v. Oregon, although its reasoning differed from that of the Court of Appeals. While Bogle v. State was pending in the post-conviction court, petitioner initiated a second post- conviction case, Bogle v. Nooth. On the state’s motion, the post-conviction court dismissed that case, citing both ORCP 21 A(3), which allowed a court to dismiss an action when “there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause,” and ORS 138.550(3), which bars successive post-conviction cases. Petitioner appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s dismissal under ORCP 21 A(3). Finding the trial court did not plainly err, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Bogle v.Oregon" on Justia Law