Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Wright

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 5, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ROBERT LEE WRIGHT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted December 21, 2016

         Yamhill County Circuit Court 14CR02967; Ronald W. Stone, Judge.

          Andrew D. Robinson, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With him on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Office of Public Defense Services.

          Jamie Contreras, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. On the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Nani Apo, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before Duncan, Presiding Judge, and DeVore, Judge, and Garrett, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction on four counts of aggravated first-degree animal abuse. Defendant contends that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that he has an intellectual disability and that he has a character for gentleness toward animals. He argues that such evidence was relevant to his mental state in committing the offenses. He also contends that the court erred in imposing upward durational departure sentences based on inapplicable aggravating factors and further erred in calculating his criminal history score on two counts. Held: The trial court did not err in excluding a reference to defendant's intellectual disability in this circumstance; exclusion of evidence of his character for gentleness was harmless; but, at least in part, the court erred in sentencing. Testimony consisting of a general reference to defendant's intellectual disability, without needed evidence that his particular disability could affect his judgment or ability to think of alternatives, was not relevant to his mental state in committing the crime. As for exclusion of evidence of his character for gentleness to animals, any error was harmless because that evidence was cumulative of other evidence. On sentencing, the Court of Appeals accepted the state's concession that the trial court relied on inapplicable departure factors and exercised its discretion to correct plain error and remand for resentencing. Finally, any error that occurred in recalculating defendant's criminal history score may be remedied at resentencing.

          DEVORE, J.

         Defendant was convicted of four counts of aggravated animal abuse in the first degree. He appeals, challenging the exclusion of evidence that he has an intellectual disability and that he has a character for gentleness toward animals. He contends that evidence was relevant to his mental state in committing the offenses. Defendant also challenges his sentences, arguing that the court erred in imposing upward durational departure sentences based on particular aggravating factors and further erred in calculating his criminal history score on two counts. We conclude that the trial court did not err in excluding a reference to defendant's intellectual disability and that exclusion of evidence of his character for gentleness was harmless, but we agree that the trial court erred in sentencing. Accordingly, we affirm defendant's convictions but remand for resentencing.

         I. FACTS

         Defendant drowned six cats that lived with him- Arial, Crystal, Suzie, Squirt, Patches, and Monkey Face. He filled a trash can half full with water and placed two cats inside the can. He held the lid down until the cats died. Then, he repeated the process for the remaining pairs of cats. Defendant was indicted by grand jury with six counts of first-degree aggravated animal abuse.

         At trial, defendant did not dispute that he had drowned the cats, but he did dispute that he had acted maliciously. He argued during opening statement and closing argument, that he "put these cats down" because he was worried about being able to care for them.[1] One cat had a problem with its ear, and defendant believed that another cat had a throat problem that he thought was cancer. He was unable to afford their veterinarian bills; he feared that, if he let the cats run free, they would either be run over by a car or contract a disease; and he believed that he could not find them another home. That is, defendant contended that he thought he had no other alternative. Defendant sought to present the testimony of his neighbor Vaage, referring to defendant's "intellectual disability" and his "character for gentleness to animals." Defendant argued that Vaage's testimony would be relevant to whether defendant acted with malicious intent-an element that the state was required to prove. The trial court concluded that the evidence was not relevant and excluded it.

         Defendant was convicted on four counts of aggravated first-degree animal abuse for killing the healthy cats. He was acquitted on the two counts that related to the arguably ill cats. After finding substantial and compelling reasons, the court imposed downward dispositional but upward durational departure sentences of five years' supervised probation on each of the convictions.

         In his first two assignments of error, defendant argues that the trial court erred in excluding, as not relevant, Vaage's reference to defendant's intellectual disability and character for gentleness toward animals. As to the testimony regarding defendant's intellectual disability, the state argues that defendant failed to establish that it was relevant to his intent because he did not show that there was a connection between his particular disability and his ability to think of alternatives, which was his theory of relevance. As to the testimony regarding defendant's character for gentleness toward animals, the state agrees that the court erred, but argues that any error was harmless.

         Defendant also assigns error to two sentencing rulings. He acknowledges that those matters were not raised at trial and asks this court to review for plain error. First, defendant contends that the trial court plainly erred in relying on four aggravating factors to impose upward durational departure sentences. The state concedes that the court improperly relied on three of the factors, but the state argues that the court did not plainly err in applying the fourth factor, involving a "vulnerable victim." Consequently, the state contends that a remand is required for the trial court to decide whether to impose departure sentences based on that factor alone. Second, defendant argues that the trial court plainly erred in using his ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.