State v. Turnidge (S059156)

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 05-05-2016
  • Case #: S059156
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Linder, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Kistler, J.; Walters, J.; Landau, J.; Baldwin, J.; & Brewer, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Even if evidence of a defendant’s motive is only circumstantial, the evidence is relevant and not speculative if a jury reasonably and logically could draw an inference of the defendant's motive from the circumstantial evidence alone.

At a joint trial with his son, Defendant was convicted on ten counts of aggravated murder related to the December, 2008, bombing of a bank in Woodburn, Oregon. Defendant and his son were both sentenced to death. On direct review of the Defendant's convictions and sentence of death, Defendant argued, under OEC 401, the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion to exclude various statements that he had made prior to the crimes because they were irrelevant. The State argued that the statements were relevant to Defendant's motive. The Court rejected Defendant's argument because the statements evidenced Defendant's longstanding anti-government sentiments, his professed desire to kill police officers, and his interest in bombings of governmental facilities, all of which logically tended to support to the State's theory about why Defendant committed the crimes. The Court stated that the threshold for admissibility under OEC 401 is "very low;" as long as the evidence supports a reasonable inference that is material to the case, the evidence is relevant and admissible, even if the evidence could support different interpretations. The Court concluded that the challenged evidence was admissible over Defendant's objection because "[a]lthough the inference of motive might not be compelled by the evidence, it is one that a jury reasonably and logically could draw." Defendant raised a wide variety of other issues, many of which the Court declined to address because they were addressed in the son’s appeal, State v.Turnidge (Joshua), 359 Or. 364 (2016). Affirmed.

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