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O'Hara v. Premo

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 18, 2018

KEVIN O'HARA, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Jeff PREMO, Superintendent, Oregon State Penitentiary, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted March 7, 2017

          Marion County Circuit Court 14C12296 Linda Louise Bergman, Senior Judge.

          Dennis N. Balske argued the cause and fled the briefs for appellant.

          Rebecca M. Auten, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge. [*]

         Case Summary: Petitioner appeals a judgment denying his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse. Petitioner argues that he received constitutionally inadequate and ineffective assistance of trial counsel because his attorneys did not request a jury instruction providing that the state was required to prove that petitioner had knowingly subjected the victim to forcible compulsion. Held: The post-conviction court did not err in denying relief because petitioner failed to establish that his counsel's failure to request the instruction prejudiced him.

         [291 Or. 420] DEHOOG, P. J.

         Petitioner appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2010 convictions for first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse. Petitioner raises four challenges to the post-conviction court's ruling; all four assignments of error allege that the court erred in denying his claims based on constitutionally inadequate and ineffective assistance of trial counsel. We reject petitioner's first three assignments of error without discussion. We write, however, to address petitioner's fourth assignment, relating to a jury instruction that counsel did not request. Because petitioner has failed to establish that counsel's allegedly deficient performance in failing to request the instruction prejudiced him, we affirm.

         In 2010, petitioner was convicted by a jury of first-degree rape, ORS 163.375, and first-degree sexual abuse, ORS 163.427, for the 2002 sexual assault of a 14-year-old family friend. We affirmed the convictions on direct appeal. State v. O'Hara, 251 Or.App. 244, 283 P.3d 396 (2012), rev den, 353 Or. 209 (2013). Petitioner then petitioned for post-conviction relief. Petitioner raised several claims of error, all alleging that his trial counsel had been constitutionally inadequate. The post-conviction court denied relief, concluding that petitioner had not demonstrated deficient performance or prejudice as to any of his claims. This appeal followed.

         We review post-conviction proceedings for errors of law. Green v. Franke, 357 Or. 301, 312, 350 P.3d 188 (2015). The post-conviction court's historical findings of fact are binding on this court if evidence in the record supports those findings. Id. "If the post-conviction court failed to make findings of fact on all the issues-and there is evidence from which such facts could be decided more than one way-we will presume that the facts were decided consistently with the post-conviction court's conclusions of law." Id.

         Both Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution protect a criminal defendant's right to counsel. Farmer v. Premo, 283 Or.App. 731, 739, 390 P.3d 1054, rev allowed, 362 [291 Or. 421] Or 208 (2017). The Oregon Supreme Court has recognized that "the standards for determining the adequacy of legal counsel under the state constitution are functionally equivalent to those for determining the effectiveness of counsel under the federal constitution." Montez v. Czerniak, 355 Or. 1, 6-7, 322 P.3d 487 (2014), adh'd to as modified on recons, 355 Or. 598, 330 P.3d 595 (2014). Both constitutions provide a right '"not just to a lawyer in name only, but to a lawyer who provides adequate assistance.'" Id. at 6 (quoting State v. Smith, 339 Or. 515, 526, 123 P.3d 261 (2005) (emphasis added)). Accordingly, a petitioner may raise a challenge to the constitutional adequacy of his or her counsel's assistance on post-conviction review. See ORS 138.530(1)(a). "To prevail on a post-conviction claim of inadequate assistance of counsel, the burden is on the petitioner to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts demonstrating that trial counsel failed to exercise reasonable professional skill and judgment and that the petitioner suffered prejudice as a result." Lambert v. Palmateer, 182 Or.App. 130, 135, 47 P.3d 907 (2002), adh'd to as modified on recons, 187 Or.App. 528, 69 P.3d 725, rev den, 336 Or. 125 (2003).

         As he did in his petition for post-conviction relief, petitioner argues on appeal that his trial attorneys performed deficiently because they failed to request a jury instruction stating that, to establish the offenses of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse as charged, the state must prove that he knowingly subjected the victim to forcible compulsion. Because, after petitioner's trial, we held in another case that such knowledge is a material element of that offense, petitioner contends that his attorneys provided inadequate assistance when they failed to request an instruction advising the jury of that requirement. The superintendent argues in response that counsel acted reasonably by not seeking the instruction; the superintendent alternatively argues that petitioner has failed to demonstrate prejudice.

         The indictment in petitioner's case alleged that he had "unlawfully and knowingly" committed first-degree rape "by forcible compulsion, " ORS 163.375(1)(a), and "unlawfully and knowingly" committed first-degree [291 Or. 422] sexual abuse "by means of forcible compulsion, " ORS 163.427 (1)(a)(B).[1] In a decision issued the year after petitioner's trial, we held that the element of "subjected to forcible compulsion" common to the offenses of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse "necessarily requires a culpable mental state." State v. Nelson, 241 Or.App. 681, 688, 251 P.3d 240 (2011), rev dismissed as improvidently allowed, 354 Or. 62 (2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because the trial court in Nelson had refused to give the defendant's proposed jury instruction correctly stating that rule, we reversed the defendant's convictions. Id. at 689. We have subsequently held-in cases involving trials held after Nelson-that the failure "to instruct the jury that, to convict, it must determine that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant acted with a culpable mental state in subjecting the victim to forcible compulsion" is a legal error that is "obvious" and "not reasonably in dispute"; in other words, plain error. State v. Gray, 261 Or.App. 121, 130, 322 P.3d 1094 (2014); see also State v. Waldbillig, 282 Or.App. 84, 89-90, 386 P.3d 51 (2016), rev den, 361 Or. 350 (2017) (finding the failure to instruct on a culpable mental state for forcible compulsion was plain error and listing other cases holding the same); ORAP 5.45(1) (stating the requirements for plain error review).

         As Nelson and the cases following it have made clear, the jury must be instructed that, to convict a defendant of first-degree rape or first-degree sexual abuse under a theory of forcible compulsion, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with a culpable mental state in subjecting the victim to forcible compulsion. But, in this case, petitioner's trial occurred before our decision in Nelson. Nonetheless, petitioner argues (as he did at the post-conviction trial) that his attorneys were deficient because any reasonable defense attorney would have requested the instruction even before Nelson. We need not decide, however, [291 Or. ...


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