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. Ward

Court of Appeals of Oregon

January 9, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MICUS DUANE WARD, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and submitted May 17, 2018.

          Washington County Circuit Court C132352CR; Rick Knapp, Senior Judge.

          Bear Wilner-Nugent argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.

          Patrick M. Ebbett, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for aggravated murder, ORS 163.095(2)(d), and felony murder, ORS 163.115(1)(b). Before trial, defendant, who has an intellectual disability, argued that he was not competent to stand trial; the trial court concluded that defendant was ft to proceed. Defendant then moved to suppress statements that he had made during two police interrogations, including statements from a second interrogation that defendant argued occurred after an invalid Miranda wavier; the trial court declined to suppress the statements from the second interrogation. Finally, defendant argued that, because of his intellectual disability, his life sentence without parole is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution; the trial court declined to impose a lesser sentence. On appeal, defendant assigns error to those adverse rulings. Held: The trial court did not err. First, the court adequately considered the appropriate competency factors, and its ultimate determination was supported by sufficient evidence in the record. Second, the evidence presented at the suppression hearing supported the court's conclusion that defendant voluntarily waived his Miranda rights notwithstanding any prior Miranda violation and the gap in time between the Miranda warnings and the challenged statements. Finally, defendant's sentence

         [295 Or.App. 637] is not unconstitutional because the Eighth Amendment does not categorically prohibit true life sentences for intellectually disabled defendants.

         Affirmed.

         [295 Or.App. 638] SHORR, J.

         Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for aggravated murder, ORS 163.095(2)(d), and felony murder, ORS 163.115(1)(b). Defendant was convicted for the murder of Jacqueline Bell, the great-grandmother of Joda Cain, defendant's cousin and the codefendant in this case.[1]We write to address three of defendant's five assignments of error.[2] In his first assignment of error, defendant challenges the trial court's determination that defendant was fit to proceed to trial. In his second assignment of error, defendant argues that the court erroneously denied his motion to suppress evidence that defendant contends was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. Finally, in his fifth assignment of error, defendant challenges the constitutionality of his sentence under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[3] For the reasons discussed below, we reject each of those assignments of error. Accordingly, we affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         We begin with a brief summary of the facts underlying defendant's conviction and the procedural events that gave rise to the issues on appeal. In our analysis of defendant's trial competency and Miranda arguments, we provide additional facts and procedural details that are relevant to those particular issues.

         Defendant was arrested and charged along with his cousin, Cain, in October 2013 for the killing of Cain's great-grandmother, Bell. Police officers discovered Bell's body in her bedroom on the morning of October 5 during a welfare check at her home. She had been bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Soon thereafter, an Oregon state trooper observed Bell's car-which was being driven by Cain and in which defendant was a passenger-weaving on the road. The officer attempted to initiate a stop. A 15-mile [295 Or.App. 639] high-speed chase ensued. The police were eventually able to force the vehicle to a halt. Cain was arrested immediately. Defendant fled on foot but was quickly caught and arrested as well. The police found Bell's purse, wallet, and jewelry in the car. The police also found a pair of gloves belonging to Cain and a shirt and pair of shorts belonging to defendant, all of which had Bell's blood on them.

         Defendant was held at the Union County Jail from October 5 until October 9, when he was transported to Washington County for his arraignment. He was charged and indicted by a grand jury for two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of felony murder. Before trial, defendant filed two motions relevant to his appeal. In the first, defendant argued that he was not fit to proceed to trial. Defendant has a lifelong intellectual disability. The trial court, concerned for defendant's fitness, initially ordered a psychological evaluation and, based on the results, determined that defendant was both unfit to proceed to trial and unsuitable for community release. The court then committed defendant to the custody of the Oregon State Hospital. As discussed in greater detail below, defendant remained there for approximately six months, at which point the state hospital recommended that the court find defendant fit to stand trial in light of the rehabilitation that had occurred during his confinement there. Defendant presented independent expert testimony challenging the possibility that he was, or could ever be, fit to proceed. Following a hearing, the court determined that defendant was competent to stand trial.

         Defendant then moved to suppress statements that he had made to police officers on October 5 and on October 9, on the basis that that evidence was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. With respect to the earlier statements, defendant argued that the officers continued to question him after he had invoked his right to remain silent. Defendant further argued that that violation tainted the interrogation on October 9, such that the trial court was also obligated to suppress any statements made on that later date. As discussed in greater detail below, the court suppressed the October 5 statements after concluding that the officers had ignored defendant's unequivocal invocation of his right to [295 Or.App. 640] remain silent. That ruling is not at issue in this appeal. But the court denied defendant's motion to suppress the statements made at the October 9 interrogation after concluding that defendant had voluntarily waived his Miranda rights notwithstanding the earlier violation.

         Defendant was subsequently tried and found guilty by a jury on both charges. The jury, having been instructed to consider mitigating factors, handed down a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.[4] Arguing that the Eighth Amendment categorically prohibits imposing a true life sentence on a person with an intellectual disability, defendant moved the sentencing court for the more lenient sentence of life with the possibility of parole after defendant has served the minimum term of 30 years, ORS 163.105(1)(c). The sentencing court merged the guilty verdicts into a single conviction for aggravated murder and denied the motion to impose less than the jury's sentence. As a result, defendant was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. That sentence was duly imposed, and defendant appealed.

         II. ANALYSIS

         On appeal, defendant raises the assignments of error described above. We address each in turn, providing additional facts as necessary to explain our decision on each of those three assignments.

         A. Defendant's First Assignment of Error

         In his first assignment of error, defendant contends that the trial court erroneously determined that he was fit to proceed to trial. After defendant was arrested and charged, defense counsel became concerned that defendant was intellectually disabled and not competent for trial. Defendant moved to have the trial court determine whether he was competent. He made an initial showing in support of that motion in the form of three psychological evaluations that demonstrated that defendant was likely intellectually [295 Or.App. 641] disabled. The court granted defendant's motion to hold a competency hearing. Defendant was transported to the Oregon State Hospital so that the state could evaluate him and render an opinion on his trial fitness. Defendant remained in the state hospital for approximately six months. During that time, he was formally evaluated three times by Dr. Stover, a psychologist employed by the state hospital. Based on his first two evaluations, Stover concluded that defendant was not yet fit to proceed but could be restored to fitness. Based on his third evaluation, and in light of defendant's day-today conduct and behavior at the state hospital, Stover concluded that defendant had been rehabilitated and now met the minimum standards for competency.

         Defendant challenged Stover's conclusions. Defendant maintained that he was not fit to proceed to trial and could not be restored to competence. He supported that contention with a report from Dr. Froming, a psychologist retained by defendant to independently evaluate defendant's competence. The court held a hearing pursuant to ORS 161.370, with experts from both sides presenting competing perspectives on defendant's trial fitness.[5] The experts agreed that, clinically, defendant had a "mild intellectual disability." But they disagreed, based on their subjective evaluations of the testing data and their in-person interviews of defendant, whether defendant's condition rendered him unfit for trial.

         Following the hearing, the trial court concluded that defendant was fit to proceed to trial. The court found, based on the testimony and evidence presented at the competency hearing, that

"defendant has the ability to communicate with his counsel in a meaningful way. He understands the nature of [295 Or.App. 642] the proceedings against him and the role he plays as a defendant in this case. He has the ability to make decisions intelligently that affect his case. And he has adequate memory about the incident and things that will happen in the course of the trial to participate in his defense."

         Defendant challenges that decision on appeal. His primary contention is that the trial court committed legal error because there was insufficient evidence to support the court's finding of fitness to proceed to trial. Defendant argues that the evidence of his intellectual disability proved that he was not, and could never be, fit to stand trial as a matter of law.

         The state does not dispute that defendant is intellectually disabled but argues that that alone does not resolve whether defendant was competent to stand trial. The state contends that there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the trial court's conclusion that defendant met the minimum standard for competency to stand trial.

         The minimum competency standard-the one required by federal due process for every criminal defendant-was announced in Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960). Under the so-called Dusky standard, a criminal defendant must have "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and "a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him." Id. at 402; see also Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975) (trial fitness involves the "capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings [, ] * * * to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing [a] defense" (citing Dusky, 362 U.S. 402)). The Dusky standard is a "modest" one that "seeks to ensure that [a defendant] has the capacity to understand the proceedings and to assist counsel." Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 402, 113 S.Ct. 2680, 125 L.Ed.2d 321 (1993).

         Oregon's statutory standard has similar requirements to the Dusky standard. Under ORS 161.360(2),

"[a] defendant may be found incapacitated if, as a result of a qualifying mental disorder, the defendant is ...

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.