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State v. Reineke

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 17, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL LEE REINEKE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted January 23, 2018

          Washington County Circuit Court C101164CR D. Charles Bailey, Jr., Judge.

          Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and Zachary Lovett Mazer, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Rolf C. Moan, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Lagesen, Presiding Judge, and DeVore, Judge, and James, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals a judgment convicting him of murdering his mother. Defendant assigns error to the trial court's admission of evidence about the victim's demeanor, which included testimony that the victim became reserved and unhappy after defendant moved in with her, seemed happier when defendant was not around, and that the victim's friends and family members, responding to that demeanor change, advised her to move out or have defendant move out. Defendant argues that that evidence was not relevant and that, if it was, its potential for unfair prejudice outweighed any probative value.

         Held:

         The trial court properly admitted at least some of the evidence and, to the extent that it may have erred, the error was harmless in view of the properly admitted evidence.

         [297 Or.App. 85] LAGESEN, P. J.

         Defendant's mother was strangled to death with a telephone cord. Defendant denied responsibility, but a jury found that he was the killer and convicted him of murder. The issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred when it permitted several witnesses to testify that the victim became reserved and unhappy after defendant moved in with her and seemed happier when defendant was not around. Defendant contends that the evidence was not relevant and that, if it was, its potential for unfair prejudice outweighed any probative value. We conclude that the trial court properly admitted at least some of the evidence and that, to the extent that it may have erred, the error was harmless in view of the properly admitted evidence.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2008, defendant moved in with the victim, who was in her seventies. In June 2010, the victim was strangled to death with a telephone cord in the kitchen of her home. Defendant called 9-1-1 requesting that a coroner and a police officer be dispatched to the home. When emergency responders arrived, they found the victim dead on the floor. Defendant was casual and unemotional when conversing with police and other emergency responders. Ultimately, defendant was arrested and charged with the victim's murder. Defendant pleaded "not guilty." He was tried and convicted, but, on appeal, we reversed his conviction because, in closing argument, the prosecutor had made a PowerPoint presentation to the jury that impermissibly urged it to infer defendant's guilt from his invocation of his constitutional right to remain silent. State v. Reineke, 266 Or.App. 299, 301, 309-10, 337 P.3d 941 (2014).

         Defendant was retried on remand. At trial, the state built a circumstantial case against defendant. In addition to the evidence that defendant was living with the victim, the state presented evidence that (1) there was no forced entry into the house, and all the windows and sliding doors had dowels in the tracks; (2) the victim's cause of death was strangulation; (3) the telephone cord used to strangle the victim contained the DNA of defendant and the victim, none of [297 Or.App. 86] the telephones in the household were missing cords, and the amount of defendant's DNA on the cord was consistent with "long or extensive contact with the object"; (4) the victim's purse was by her feet in the kitchen with valuables inside and her diamond ring was still on her finger; (5) a few weeks before the killing, defendant, speaking in a vicious tone, told the victim that he could not wait for her to die so that he could get his inheritance; (6) defendant's wallet contained a list of telephone numbers that identified the victim as a "(Pain in the ass!)"; (7) defendant was casual and not emotional when interviewed following the victim's death; (8) some money was ...


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