Court rejects appeal by Oregon teen killer

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by By WILLIAM McCALL, Associated Press Writer

kgw.com

Posted on January 21, 2010 at 9:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 21 at 9:26 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A man sentenced to life in prison for aggravated murder committed when he was 16 lost an appeal Wednesday claiming that he got a tougher sentence than adults.

Shane Sopher was among five juveniles sentenced to life in prison for aggravated murder committed when state law did not require any mandatory minimum sentence for 15- or 16-year-olds remanded to adult court.

But Sopher argued that a 1999 change in rules by the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision had the effect of imposing a minimum sentence that will keep him in prison at least 33 years.

The Oregon Court of Appeals noted in its ruling Wednesday the board informed Sopher after entering prison in 1993 that he would receive a hearing under a law that required it take place within a year of entry in order to set an initial parole release date.

The board later informed Sopher he would receive a hearing under rules adopted specifically to apply to offenders convicted of aggravated murder committed when they were juveniles. Those rules require the board to set what is called an "aggravated murder review hearing" date, rather than an initial parole release date.

Under the rules adopted in 1999, the board set his review hearing for November 2025. Sopher argued the board failed to perform its duty to conduct an initial parole release hearing and establish a release date for him under previous state law instead of the later rules.

But the Court of Appeals said the board did not violate his constitutional rights by applying the rules. It ruled, however, that Sopher could go back to trial court to challenge the board's rules on jurisdictional grounds.

Sopher and four other juvenile killers convicted of aggravated murder before 1995 want earlier rules to apply to them, said Tony Green, a spokesman for Attorney General John Kroger.

The state shifted to mandatory sentencing laws in 1995 under Measure 11 and the parole board has much less influence on the length of a sentence, Green said. "It's these five people who are sort of trapped in this time warp," he said.

 

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