The state appeals from a post-judgment order in which the trial court granted defendant conditional release from prison after conducting a second-look hearing under ORS 420A.203(4). The state has argued that defendant was ineligible for a second-look hearing by virtue of the fact that he had been sentenced to imprisonment for life with a 30-year mandatory minimum term for his conviction of aggravated murder. The state also has argued that the conditional-release order was barred by ORS 137.750(2) because the amended judgment did not expressly provide for any form of early release, in accordance with ORS 137.750(1).
However, this appeal was pending, we issued an opinion in defendant's post-conviction case, in which we reversed the post-conviction court and directed it to grant relief on three of defendant's convictions. In accordance with that opinion, the post-conviction court entered a general judgment vacating defendant's convictions for aggravated murder and intentional murder, leaving only one conviction for felony murder. In light of the post-conviction court's judgment, we conclude that this appeal should be dismissed as moot.
We briefly recount the procedural history of this case. In 1998, when defendant was 14 years old, he was involved in the armed robbery and killing of a single victim. As a result, he was charged with three counts of aggravated murder, ORS 163.095 (murder in
Defendant was tried as an adult and found guilty of Counts 1, 2, 4, and 5. The trial court merged the guilty verdicts on Counts 1 and 5 and, on appeal, we remanded the case to the trial court to merge the guilty verdicts for aggravated murder, Counts 1 and 2, into one aggravated murder conviction.
In October 2010, defendant sought post-conviction relief, claiming that his trial attorney was constitutionally inadequate for not objecting to a "natural and probable consequences" jury instruction. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and we subsequently affirmed that determination without written opinion.
In July 2013, while his post-conviction appeal was pending, defendant filed a motion under ORS 420A.203 for a second-look hearing.
Defendant then filed petitions for writs of mandamus, asking the Supreme Court to order the Department of Corrections and the Josephine County Circuit Court to comply with ORS 420A.203 and hold a second-look hearing. The Supreme Court granted the writs. In September 2014, over the state's objection, the circuit court held a second-look hearing and granted defendant conditional release from prison.
The state then filed this appeal, arguing that the circuit court erred in conducting the second-look hearing because defendant was ineligible for release under ORS 420A.203. The state argued that juveniles convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life under ORS 163.105(1)(c) must be confined for a minimum of 30 years. ORS 163.105(1)(c) provides that, "[i]f sentenced to life imprisonment, the court shall order that the defendant
While this appeal was pending, defendant filed a petition for reconsideration of our decision in Walraven III, which, as noted above, affirmed without opinion the post-conviction court's denial of relief. We allowed defendant's petition for reconsideration and, in April 2016, reversed the post-conviction court's judgment and remanded with instructions for the post-conviction court to grant relief as to defendant's convictions for aggravated murder and intentional murder (Counts 1, 2, and 5).
Following Walraven IV, the state filed a notice of probable mootness of this appeal, explaining that,
The state also conceded that its alternative argument — that the judgment entered in this case precludes any form of early release — would become moot upon the post-conviction court's grant of relief. The state acknowledged that the judgment at issue in the present appeal is the 2008 amended judgment, which merged all of defendant's guilty verdicts into one count of aggravated murder and sentenced him on that count alone. Thus, upon remand, defendant would have to be resentenced on the felony-murder count that survived Walraven IV, and that new judgment may or may not provide for defendant's eligibility for early release under ORS 137.750.
The post-conviction court subsequently issued a general judgment on remand, vacating defendant's convictions for aggravated murder and intentional murder (Counts 1, 2,
Under Article VII (Amended) of the Oregon Constitution, courts are not required to dismiss cases whenever they are moot, "at least not in `public actions or cases involving matters of public interest.'"
We agree that the state's challenges to the post-judgment order granting defendant conditional release after a second-look hearing are moot. Because defendant's conviction for aggravated murder and sentence of life imprisonment with a 30-year mandatory minimum term has been vacated, any decision by this court on the issue presented will have no practical effect on the rights of the parties. And, although the state notes that, "if defendant is convicted once again on the charge of aggravated murder and the sentencing court re-imposes a sentence of life imprisonment with a 30-year minimum term, pursuant to ORS 163.105(1)(c), and the court then re-issues its order of conditional release under ORS 420A.206(3), the issue presented by this appeal will be resurrected," that contingency is far too speculative to avoid mootness. Id.
Appeal dismissed as moot.