Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
In criminal cases consolidated for trial, defendant Richard Lacey waived his right to counsel and invoked his right to self-representation after being warned that, if he engaged in disruptive conduct during his jury trial, he would be removed from the courtroom, and the trial would proceed without anyone present to represent him. Despite that warning and numerous others during the trial, defendant engaged in disruptive conduct throughout the trial, and, before closing argument, he informed the trial court that he would not abide by its order prohibiting him from referring to information that had not been admitted into evidence. After confirming that defendant intended to violate its order, the trial court removed defendant from the courtroom for the remainder of the trial day. The jury found defendant guilty of most of the charged crimes. Defendant appealed, asserting that the trial court had violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment by proceeding with the trial in his absence. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the trial court had violated defendant’s Sixth Amendment “right to representation” because “it did not secure a waiver of defendant’s right to representation, it did not appoint counsel, and it did not take other measures to protect defendant’s right to representation after it removed him from the courtroom.” After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, while representing himself, defendant made a knowing and voluntary choice to be removed from the courtroom and leave the defense table empty. The trial court did not violate defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights by accepting that choice. View "Oregon v. Lacey" on Justia Law

by
These consolidated cases involved two defendants who were separately charged with unlawfully delivering marijuana. In one case United States Postal Service (USPS) took a package out of a mail hamper and put it on the floor so that a drug-detection dog could sniff it. In the other case, another postal inspector seized the package after a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the package, and the inspector took the package to the addressee’s house and asked for consent to search it. Focusing on the first issue, the trial court ruled that no seizure had occurred because defendants had no constitutionally protected possessory interest in the package while it was in the mail. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that defendants had a constitutionally protected property interest in the package, which the first postal inspector significantly interfered with when she took the package out of the mail hamper. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the first postal inspector did not seize the package when she put it in a package lineup for the dog to sniff, and that the request for consent in the second package's seizure was reasonable. Because both officials acted consistently with Article I, Section 9, the trial courts correctly denied defendants' motions to suppress. View "Oregon v. Sholedice" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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