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Oregon Supreme Court Cites Clinic Amicus Brief

October 18, 2018

  • Oregon Justice Building, home of the state's Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in Salem
    iStockphoto

The Lewis & Clark Law School Criminal Justice Reform Clinic,  (CJRC) celebrated a win in early October when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dante Farmer, an incarcerated individual, and cited an amicus brief from CJRC in support of his case. He was represented by attorney Lindsey Burrows, a 2011 alum of the law school.

“Last fall, CJRC was working with Dante Farmer on his clemency petition to the Governor that focused on his innocence,” explained professor Aliza Kaplan and clinic director. “So when Lindsey contacted us to tell us the Oregon Supreme Court had agreed to hear his post-conviction appeal, we were eager to write an amicus brief that emphasized all the miscarriages of justice in his case.”

Venetia Mayhew ’17, staff attorney for CJRC, explained the facts. “There was no physical evidence tying Mr. Farmer to the crime and the only eyewitness, who called 911 to report the crime, was not found by his defense team to testify until after the jury had come to a decision. The eyewitness, when located, emphatically stated that Dante Farmer was not the person she saw do the shooting and identified a different suspect. Furthermore, his initial trial attorney decided not to call a defense expert who would have testified that a gun seized from a residence where the other suspect was living was “likely” the murder weapon. The post-conviction court agreed that had the jury heard the testimony of both the eyewitness and the expert it would likely have reached a different conclusion, and ordered a new trial. The state appealed. At the appellate hearing, Mr. Farmer’s state-appointed appellate attorney failed to respond to the State’s arguments and even worse, failed to show up for oral argument which resulted in the Court of Appeals reversing the post-conviction trial court’s decision.” The Oregon Supreme Court reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Mayhew continued, “having studied the facts of the crime and the injustices surrounding Mr. Farmer’s experience in the legal system, I feel very strongly that he is innocent of any crime. I look forward to continue working with Mr. Farmer in any way I can to ensure his release from custody.”

A CJRC clinic student, Dustin Ellett ’18 supported the effort, by going through details of the trial court transcripts looking for issues and laying out the facts.

Mr. Farmer is waiting to be transferred to the Multnomah County Jail to prepare for a new trial.

“We are waiting to hear from Multnomah County about whether they will re-try Mr. Farmer, or not,” said Kaplan. “If we have to, we will petition the Governor for clemency relief, but we hope we won’t need to do that, he has been through too much already.”

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