Victory for Stalking Victims Statewide!
On Sept. 9, the Oregon Supreme Court held that where the defendant in a criminal Stalking case has been prohibited, by a civil stalking protective order, from communicating with the victim, the prosecution does not have to prove that he communicated an unequivocal threat to the victim to obtain a conviction on the Stalking charge. The ruling (State v. John Norman Ryan, Seeattachment below) reversed the Oregon Court of Appeals, which earlier had held that convicting the defendant in this case of Stalking, without such an unequivocal threat, violated his constitutional right to free speech.
As a result of the ruling, the defendant’s two convictions for stalking a former Portland Tribuneeditor – whom the defendant met at a public event and with whom he has been pursuing a fantasy relationship for six years – will be reinstated. The defendant currently is a patient at Oregon State Hospital, where he is being evaluated to determine whether he is able to aid and assist his attorney in his defense against new charges of Stalking. The new charges involve the same victim and her extended family. Although the defendant never has explicitly threatened the victim or her family, the imaginary nature of his “relationship” with them, his apparent mental-health issues and the long-standing nature of his personal and written contacts have, needless to say, alarmed them and made them feel threatened.
The Oregon Department of Justice argued the appeal for the State. The Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, along with the Portland-based National Crime Victim Law Institute and the Oregon Law Center, also filed an amici curiae “friend of the court” brief to educate the Oregon Supreme Court about the trauma that stalking causes and its prevalence.
Thanks to the OCVLC's and the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office's cooperative relationship, we were able to stop the defendant in a domestic violence case from potentially getting access to allof a victim's mental health records.
The defendant had sought to have the records reviewed by the trial court judge for potential release to him without providing the victim with notice of his subpoena for them or stating sufficient factual or legal authority for his request.
The OCVLC opposed the subpoena, and any judicial review of the records, on the grounds that the lack of notice violated the federal HIPAA Privacy Rule and the request violated the victim's constitutional rights to privacy and to refuse a defense discovery request, as well as the psychotherapist-privilege.
On Sept. 14, Yamhill County Judge Carroll Tichenor told the defendant's attorney - who apologized for the lack of notice to the victim - that unless she could re-do the subpoena to meet legal requirements, he was going to return the records to the victim's mental-health provider unopened.
The Yamhill County District Attorney's Office had referred the victim to the OCVLC for legal representation after it received notice of the subpoena. District attorneys' offices, which represent the interests of the People of the State of Oregon, do not typically represent individual victims when defendants request their personal information.