Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant Patrick Sparks appealed the trial court’s imposition of three consecutive probation revocation sanctions, the Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Oregon Supreme Court allowed defendant’s petition for review. On review, defendant argues that, under a provision of the sentencing guidelines, OAR 213-012-0040(2)(b), in order for the trial court to impose three consecutive sanctions as it did, it had to find three separate violations. The Supreme Court did not address defendant’s argument regarding OAR 213-012-0040(2)(b), because the trial court found ten separate violations. Specifically, the trial court found one violation of a condition that defendant not use illegal drugs and nine violations of a condition that defendant not contact the victim of his crimes. Defendant contends the trial court erred in finding nine violations of the no-contact condition; instead, he argued the State alleged only a single violation of the no-contact condition and, therefore, failed to provide sufficient notice to support a finding of more than one violation of that condition. The Supreme Court rejected defendant’s argument that the state’s notice was insufficient to support the trial court’s findings of multiple violations of the no-contact provision. Therefore, even under defendant’s interpretation of OAR 213-012-0040 (2)(b), the trial court could find enough separate violations to support the consecutive sanctions it imposed. View "Oregon v. Sparks" on Justia Law

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This case began with Petitioner Victor Uroza-Zuniga's arrest for public drinking, in violation of the Beaverton, Oregon City Code. That arrest led to a search, a charge of drug possession, a denied motion to suppress, a bench trial, conviction for unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and an unsuccessful appeal. Beaverton prohibited drinking alcoholic beverages in any public place. Yet ORS 430.402(1)(b) prohibited Beaverton, along with all other local governments, from regulating or proscribing “[p]ublic drinking, except as to places where any consumption of alcoholic beverages is generally prohibited.” Defendant argued the state statute preempted Beaverton’s public drinking ordinance, making his arrest illegal and the fruits of that arrest subject to suppression. The state, along with amici curiae the City of Beaverton and the League of Oregon Cities, argued that it fell within ORS 430.402(1)(b)’s exception, and it was therefore not preempted. The Oregon Supreme Court held Beaverton’s public drinking ordinance was not preempted and affirmed defendant’s conviction. View "Oregon v. Uroza-Zuniga" on Justia Law

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In 1999, petitioner Esteban Chavez pled guilty to delivering cocaine. In 2011, he petitioned for post-conviction relief, relying on Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 US 356 (2010), and arguing his trial attorney failed to advise him about the immigration consequences of his guilty plea in violation of the Sixth Amendment. The trial court dismissed the petition both because it was untimely and because Padilla did not apply retroactively. The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s judgment on the latter ground. On review, petitioner challenged both grounds the trial court identified for dismissing his petition. The Oregon Supreme Court held that although the petition was timely, the only retroactivity argument that petitioner raised on review, that Oregon’s post-conviction statutes required all new constitutional rules be applied retroactively, was not well taken. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision and the trial court’s judgment. View "Chavez v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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A teenage boy, GP, who had been dating defendant Jonathan Black’s daughter, reported that defendant had had inappropriate sexual contact with him at defendant’s residence. That report triggered an investigation, and that investigation uncovered four other teenage victims, one of whom was JN. Ultimately, defendant was indicted and proceeded to a jury trial. Defendant sought to offer the testimony of Dr. Johnson, a child psychologist, to explain the established protocols for interviewing children and to identify portions of the interviews of GP and JN that, in his opinion, did not meet those protocols. The judicially created "vouching rule" precludes one witness from commenting on the credibility of another witness’s trial or pretrial statements. This case required the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether certain evidence defendant sought to offer at his trial violated that rule. After review of the specific facts presented by this case, the Supreme Court concluded that the proffered testimony did not violate the vouching rule and that the trial court’s preclusion of that evidence was not harmless. Therefore, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and the judgment of the circuit court, and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Orgon v. Black" on Justia Law

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In previous proceedings before the Oregon Supreme Court, the Court agreed with defendant Santiago Vallin that the trial court had erred in imposing a sentence under ORS 137.717(1)(b) (2015). The Court concluded the 2017 version of that statute, Or Laws 2017, ch 673, section 5, governed defendant’s sentence. Accordingly, the dispositional “tag line” of the opinion remanded the case for resentencing. Although he prevailed on the merits, defendant petitioned for reconsideration of the Supreme Court's opinion, specifically seeking modification of the tag line in light of his conditional plea, which he was permitted to withdraw on remand. The state did not file a response in opposition to defendant’s petition. The Supreme Court allowed defendant’s petition for reconsideration and modified its earlier tag line, to remand the case for further proceedings as: “The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.” View "Oregon v. Vallin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this case were Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and two individuals, Mary Elledge and Deborah Mapes-Stice, who identified themselves as both crime victims and voters. Together, plaintiffs brought an action against Oregon, seeking a declaration that HB 3078 (2017), which amended ORS 137.717 (2015) to reduce the presumptive sentences provided therein for certain property crimes, was enacted in violation of Article IV, section 33, of the Oregon Constitution, and therefore was invalid. Article IV, section 33, was adopted by the voters in 1996 as Ballot Measure 10, and provided a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature was necessary “to pass a bill that reduces a criminal sentence approved by the people under [Article IV, section 1, of the Oregon Constitution].” Plaintiffs argued the longer presumptive prison sentences set out in ORS 137.717 (2015) had been “approved by the people” in 2008, when Ballot Measure 57 was adopted, and could not lawfully be reduced by the simple majorities that HB 3078 had garnered to amend the statute. The State appealed the trial court's order invalidating HB 3078 as unconstitutional. Among other things, the state contended plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the underlying declaratory judgment action. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed plaintiffs lacked standing, and vacated the declaratory judgment. The matter was remanded with instructions to dismiss the action. View "Foote v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court allowed review of two cases this case, and Gutale v. Oregon, 395 P3d 942 (2017), requiring it to interpret the meaning and scope of the "escape clause" found in ORS 138.510(3). In both cases, petitioners alleged that their trial counsels were constitutionally ineffective and inadequate under the state and federal constitutions, based on the failure of those attorneys to provide petitioners with information regarding the immigration consequences of their guilty pleas. And petitioners in both cases alleged that their claims fell within the escape clause because they learned of their counsel’s inadequacy only when they were put in deportation proceedings after the statute of limitations had run. Both petitioners argued that they should not have been presumed to know the law any sooner than that. In this case (but not in Gutale), petitioner Ricardo Perez-Rodriquez was told at the time of his plea that there might be immigration consequences to his conviction, even though he was not told that there certainly would be immigration consequences. Furthermore, in this case (but not in Gutale), petitioner alleged that his mental illness and intellectual disability prevented him from knowing that he had a claim for post-conviction relief within the two-year limitations period. The state moved to dismiss, arguing that the laws underlying petitioner’s claim were reasonably available to him. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition as time-barred under ORS 138.510(3). The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. Finding no error in this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and the post-conviction court. View "Perez-Rodriguez v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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Defendant Dawn McColly failed to appear for a scheduled trial call, but, before that date, she had not been released following arrest, detention, or confinement. Instead, as part of a voluntary arraignment appearance, the trial court had ordered that she be conditionally released and also officially fingerprinted and photographed pursuant to a “book-and-release” process; defendant also had signed a release agreement stating that she had “been released” and agreed to personally appear at future court appearances. In response to a motion for judgment of acquittal at defendant’s trial on the failure-to-appear charge, the court concluded that the previously ordered book-and-release process satisfied the statutory “custody” requirement. A jury convicted defendant, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the statutes required the state to prove that, prior to defendant’s failure to appear: (1) a peace officer had imposed actual or constructive restraint, pursuant to an arrest or court order, amounting to “custody”; and, then, (2) the trial court had released her from that custody, under a release agreement and upon an appearance condition. The state’s evidence did not satisfy those requirements, and the Court therefore reversed defendant’s judgment of conviction. View "Oregon v. McColly" on Justia Law

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In 2015, defendant Kelly Edmonds was charged with having raped a five-year-old girl in 1994 or 1995. At the time that the crime occurred, defendant’s wife operated a daycare service out of her and defendant’s home. The victim was regularly left at that day-care. At defendant’s trial, the victim, then twenty-five, testified that, on one occasion, while she was at the daycare, defendant had taken her into another room and raped her. The victim testified that she had reported the rape to her mother on the day that it had happened and to her father, grandmother, therapist, and school counselor in 2002. Defendant’s theory of the case was that the victim had formed a false memory of the rape. In support of that theory, defendant offered testimony from an expert witness that memories can become distorted over time and that false memories are possible. Defendant also presented testimony from the victim’s mother and grandmother that they had only learned of the rape in the past year and had not previously been told about it by the victim. Defendant also called the therapist and the counselor as witnesses, each testifying they had no recollection of the victim telling them about being raped by defendant and that, as mandatory reporters of child abuse, they would have made a report to the Department of Human Services if they had been told. From that evidence, defendant attempted to make the case that the victim’s memories of the rape had formed only recently and were therefore false. The question that this case presented for review was whether a transcript of a police interview, which was unquestionably hearsay evidence, could be introduced under the business records exception, OEC 803(6). That question was complicated by the existence of the official records exception, OEC 803(8)(b), an overlapping hearsay exception that specifically excludes from its scope “matters observed by police officers and other law enforcement personnel” in criminal cases. The Oregon Supreme Court held that the limitations that the legislature placed on the use of law enforcement records in OEC 803(8)(b) could not be avoided by introducing those records under the business records exception. The Court therefore held that the trial court’s decision to admit part of the transcript into evidence was error, and accordingly, reversed defendant’s conviction. View "Oregon v. Edmonds" on Justia Law

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A jury sentenced defendant David Taylor to death after he was convicted of aggravated murder, kidnapping, and other crimes against Celestino Gutierrez, as well as multiple offenses arising out of two bank robberies. In this automatic and direct review of his convictions and sentence, defendant primarily made two arguments contrary to controlling precedent without offering persuasive reasons to depart from that precedent, or arguments that otherwise lack merit. However, some of defendant’s assignments of error raised significant issues that the Oregon Supreme Court had yet to expressly address, including: whether the state must expressly allege its theory for joining multiple offenses, whether the governor’s moratorium on imposing the death penalty affects the jury’s ability to constitutionally consider that punishment, and whether the Supreme Court should presume that the undisclosed bias of an alternate juror impaired defendant’s constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury. Ultimately, the Court concluded none of defendant’s assignments of error identifies a basis for reversing the judgment, and affirmed. View "Oregon v. Taylor" on Justia Law