You May Not Be Guilty but We’ll Keep You in Prison

Courthouse - 080416In a recent case the Oregon Court of Appeals held that just because it appeared that the petitioner was not actually guilty of the crimes to which he pled guilty, there was no reason to let him out of prison before he had served his full term.

In the case, Hardin v. Popoff, 279 Or App 290 (2016), the petitioner had pled guilty in 2007 to four counts of encouraging child sexual abuse based on allegations that he had possessed or controlled images of child pornography because there was evidence that he had viewed, but not knowingly stored or saved such images on his computer.  In 2011 the Oregon Supreme Court decided that merely viewing an image of child pornography on the internet did not constitute the crime of possession or control of images of child pornography.  Shortly after that decision, petitioner filed for post-conviction relief claiming that he could not have known that the courts would rule that his conduct did not constitute a crime when he pled guilty.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court decision in 2014 that the petitioner should have challenged the charges against him before pleading guilty or within two years of his conviction.  Even though the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2011 was “new law”, the courts held that his claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations on post-conviction relief petitions.

In other words, you might not be guilty but we’ll keep you in prison because we can.  All in all, the holdings of both the trial and appellate courts seem patently unjust.  The fact that the petitioner has spent five years litigating whether he should remain in prison for conduct which was not criminal does not reflect well on the attorneys for the state or on the courts.

© 8/3/2016 Lawrence B. Hunt of Hunt & Associates, P.C.  All rights reserved.

 

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