Tuesday, October 25, 2011
POLK COUNTY -- The outcome of a state investigation into recently recovered evidence in the Philip Scott Cannon triple murder case will determine whether Cannon is retried, the Polk County District Attorney's Office said.
The Oregon Department of Justice announced on Oct. 19 that it had discovered four boxes of evidence in the facilities of its trial division.
Cannon was released from incarceration in December 2009, after the Polk DA and DOJ dropped charges against him in a granted retrial when prosecution exhibits from Cannon's original trial had come up missing.
Oregon State Police is investigating the mishandling of the material, per a request from Attorney General John Kroger.
Cannon's case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning he could be retried if the evidence was ever found. A retrial is the Polk DA's call to make, said Tony Green, a DOJ spokesman
"I will need to wait until the Oregon State Police have concluded their investigation before I will be able to make any determinations on the Cannon case," District Attorney Stan Butterfield wrote in an Oct. 21 e-mail to the Itemizer-Observer.
"I have no idea what kind of timeline their investigation will require and they probably don't either this early in the process," Butterfield wrote.
Green said that there is no deadline for a retrial decision and that he had "no idea when OSP will be done."
Cannon has always maintained he was wrongly convicted for the 1998 murders of Jason Roger Kinser, Suzan Renee Osborne and Celesta Joy Graves.
During an interview with the Itemizer-Observer last week, Cannon said he had just gotten off work on Oct. 19 when a Portland television news station called him for comment on the DOJ's discovery.
"I thought it was interesting and wondered what it could be that they found," Cannon said.
He's now working and attending school full time at Portland State University. That the matter has been dredged up again bothers him, he said.
"You try to put things behind you, move on with life, and it keeps coming back up," Cannon said. "I'm guessing what I'm going through is nothing compared to what the victims' families are going through."
Mark Geiger, a Salem attorney who represented Cannon during his bid for a retrial, said he was surprised they found the evidence, but that "we shouldn't jump to conclusions about the contents of the boxes."
Geiger said one of the elements that led to Cannon's planned retrial was that the state agreed with a claim that ballistics evidence in the old trial was inadmissible.
"I've read what people have said on blogs, I'm out on a technicality, and the reality is my conviction was never overturned based on lost evidence," Cannon said. "It was based upon the DOJ saying my claims (for a retrial) were sound."
Geiger said there are "insurmountable" problems related to the chain of evidence because the boxes were lost for such a long time.
"Justice will only be served by looking at this case with fresh eyes," Geiger said. "Anything else would be a travesty."
Cannon said he believes the chances of a retrial are "probably nonexistent."
"There's no evidence out there that wasn't used in the first trial and that's been ruled inadmissible," Cannon said. "I can't imagine there are any surprises in those boxes."
Cannon said if by some chance he was charged again, "I'll probably be the last to know about it.
"The only way they'll tell me is to come and put me in handcuffs."