On November 15, OCVLC pro bono attorney Olufunmike "Fumi" Owoso helped to persuade the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision that an inmate who bludgeoned and then choked to death a Portland man almost 25 years ago should spend at least another 24 months behind bars.
Although the board previously had found that the inmate, Kevin Roper, was likely to be rehabilitated within a reasonable period of time" and had set a release date for March 14, 2012, Owoso successfully argued that it was not required to release him at that time because he has been diagnosed with a severe emotional disturbance that would make him a danger to the community and does not have an adequate plan for what he would do if released.
Roper and a co-defendant, Scott Wickee, were convicted in Multnomah County of Aggravated Murder in 1987 in the death of an acquaintance, Eddie Lee "Bobby" Gibbs. Roper was sentenced to life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 30 years without the possibility of parole. However, in 2010 the Oregon Supreme Court held that, as a result of the board's 2008 finding that he was likely to be rehabilitated, it was required to set a release date even though he has not yet served the 30-year minimum. That ruling also affected at least 29 other inmates, of which Roper was the first to go to this level of hearing.
Roper's release also was opposed by Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Traci Anderson and Gibbs' mother and brother.
Owoso, who represented Gibbs' sister, compared Roper's behavior at the time of his arrest with the Roper who described the crime in affectless, sometimes contradictory detail before the board Tuesday.
"The Kevin Roper who brutally murdered my client's little brother is the same Kevin Roper who sits before us today," she told the board. A short time later, the three-member panel, ruling unanimously, told Roper that he would remain incarcerated and set a tentative release date for March 2014, with another psychological evaluation and hearing to take place before then. "You still have some work to do," board chair Aaron Felton told him.
Video of KATU Channel 2 News coverage of Kevin Roper's parole hearing
Related KATU Channel 2 News coverage
Related Oregonian article
Following a lengthy contested hearing on Tuesday, Lane County Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Chanti upheld the prosecutor’s determination that a homicide victim’s aunt was a “victim” for purposes of affording her crime victim’s rights in a prosecution for aggravated murder.
Anjelica Swartout is accused of smothering her newborn and putting the body in a dumpster after giving birth in a bathroom of a motel where she worked. Swartout’s sister, Jewel Sward, alerted authorities after finding inconsistencies in Swartout’s story about what happened to the baby.
Prosecutors designated Sward the “victim” under Article I, Section 42 of the Oregon Constitution, thereby giving her certain rights including the right to attend the entire trial. Swartout’s attorneys filed a motion to disallow the “victim” designation, arguing that Sward did not meet the statutory or constitutional definition of “victim,” and that allowing her to remain in the courtroom throughout the trial would violate their client’s constitutional due process rights because Sward would be able to tailor her testimony to that of others and she could be referred to as a “victim” before any crime had been proven.
Defense attorney Eve Oldenkamp also argued that the Oregon Constitution’s delegation to the prosecutor of the authority to designate who is a victim of crime violates Swartout’s federal due process rights as applied in this case. In rejecting Oldenkamp’s argument, Judge Suzanne Chanti made it clear she had done her homework – she referred to the legislative history of Article I, Section 42, and cited to several cases from other jurisdictions in which similar challenges had been rejected.
In supporting his reasons for designating Sward as a victim, prosecuting attorney Bob Lane told the court that, among other listed reasons, Sward had given Swartout emotional support during the pregnancy, had been excited about the birth and saddened by the death of the infant, and had planned the baby’s funeral.
Another motion filed by the defense asked the court to order Sward to show the jury a tattoo she got after the death of Swartout’s baby showing the baby’s name. Judge Chanti deferred ruling on the motion until time of trial, but indicated after hearing from Sward’s attorney that if she allowed the tattoo to be shown to the jury, a photo of the tattoo would likely be more appropriate “because of privacy and dignity issues.”
Sward was represented by Erin K. Olson, a pro bono attorney appearing on behalf of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center.
A Columbia County circuit court judge has set a "date certain" for the trial of a man who allegedly sodomized a young boy after OCVLC pro bono attorney Lillian Salminen invoked the victim's right to a speedy trial.
The trial, which is set to begin on Jan. 24, 2012, has been scheduled to take place five times since the defendant was indicted in 2009 but has been reset for various reasons.
The judge told Salminen and attorneys for the State and the defendant that "The Court has had to bump other cases that are nearly as old as [this case], and we have done so to get this case scheduled in a timely manner given the circumstances. There will not be any further resets."
The "circumstances" cited by Salminen in her motion and a subsequent letter to the Court included the facts that the victim, who was five and six years old when the crimes alleged in the indictment occurred, is now nine and he and his family need to get the trial behind him. Under Oregon statutory law, victims have the right to have the trial of their cases proceed with "all practicable speed."
Salminen, who has been doing pro bono work for the center since October 3, 2011, previously worked on child-protection issues as an assistant attorney general in Arizona.