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Oregon Supreme Ct - Dec 22, 2016

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by: Sara Werboff • December 23, 2016 • no comments

Post-Conviction Relief - Trial Court Erred in Granting Motion for Summary Judgment on Petitioner's Successive PCR Claim Alleging Brady Violation

Petitioner was convicted of aggravated murder and pursued appellate and post-conviction remedies. Petitioner's first PCR petition was denied in 1999. In 2012, again sought PCR alleging that the state withheld impeachment evidence in violation of petitioner's due process rights under Brady. Petitioner alleged that she did not know of the Brady violation until her co-defendant's PCR attorney discovered it in the prosecutor's files in 2012. Petitioner contended that she could not have raised that claim in her 1999 PCR petition. The state moved for summary judgment alleging that petitioner could have raised that claim in her original PCR and arguing that petitioner had not asserted any facts to show why she could not have obtained the same information from the prosecutor's file in her original PCR case. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and the Court of Appeals affirmed for different reasons.

On review, the court reverses the summary judgment. First, the court notes that the state purportedly based its summary judgment motion on deficiencies in petitioner's pleadings, but asserted a factual argument - that petitioner would have been able to subpoena the prosecutor's file in her 1999 PCR proceedings. The state's summary judgment motion therefore required the trial court to presume that the materials would have been kept in the same location and would have been produced to petitioner had she subpoenaed them. Because the state's motion was limited to the sufficiency of petitioner's pleadings, it was inappropriate for the trial court to make that presumption. Second, the court explained that, on this record, the trial court erred in concluding as a matter of law that petitioner could have raised her Brady claim in the earlier petition. That determination is factual, and petitioner asserted sufficient facts that she was unable to, so in a ruling on the pleadings alone, there was no basis for the trial court to find otherwise. The trial court therefore erred in concluding that there was no issue of material fact and the state was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. The court further determined that the Court of Appeals erred by affirming on a basis that the state had not raised in its motion for summary judgment.

Eklof v. Steward, 360 Or 717 (2016) (Brewer, J.)