Doors Open for Man to Sue State for Wrongful Conviction

The Oregonian reported Wednesday, March 26th, a man once convicted of triple-murder whose conviction was ultimately overturned can sue Oregon for wrongful conviction.

The article indicates procedurally Cannon’s initial attempt to sue Oregon was thwarted by a lower courts decision that his lawsuit was invalid because the time to file his suit lapsed.  However, the Oregon Court of Appeals held Cannon did meet the procedural requirements for filing his case in a timely manner.

According to the article, Cannon was accused a killing three people in 1998.  In 2009, Cannon prevailed in his bid for a new trial.  However, the Oregon Department of Justice acknowledged evidence was lost including bullets and crime-scene photos.  On September 2, 2009 his convictions were set aside.  On December 18, 2009, the government decided to not retry the case.  Cannon was released from prison that same day.  Ultimately, Cannon filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Justice Department and Oregon State Police amongst other government entities.  The suit was filed within 180 days of the court’s decision as required by law.  But summons’ on the defendants were served after the 180 days passed.  This lead to the lower courts decisions to rule against Cannon.  That is until the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled this past Wednesday, Cannon did in fact follow procedure because after the suit was filed, he had an additional 60 days to serve the defendant which he did.

The Oregonian article included a comment from Cannon’s attorney that this decision could have a huge impact on future litigation of these types of cases ie lawsuits against public bodies.

Interestingly enough, the article seems to suggest prosecution of Cannon could still occur even though the government has not given any indication that it will do so.

To read the article in its entirety please click the following link.

My two cents, the burden of proof rests with the government.  The government is saddled with the responsibility of proving all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  Prosecution of criminal cases can change the lives of the accused for a long time perhaps forever.  Cannon spent 11 years of a life sentence behind bars.  But was fortuitous in having his convictions set aside.  What if that had not occurred?  The result is unimaginable.  I hope cases like this place greater accountability on prosecutors and law enforcement before they accuse someone of committing a crime.