Parole for cop killer angers police officers

May 29, 2013 10:52 am

Prison board tells legislators it won’t review its decision to release man who murdered John Day policeman in 1992 

SALEM  — The state Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision told a House legislative committee Tuesday it won’t reconsider its decision to release an Oregon man who killed a John Day police officer in 1992.

The Oregon House Judiciary Committee held an informational hearing Tuesday afternoon to better understand the board’s recent decision to release Sidney Porter, who’s set to get out on June 7.

On April 8, 1992, John Day police officer Frank Ward, 39, responded to a domestic abuse complaint at Porter’s home. When Ward arrived, he found Porter assaulting his wife and the officer pepper sprayed him.

John Day Police Chief Richard Tirico told lawmakers that Porter, who was drunk, beat Ward unconscious with his fists and then hit him in the back of the head with a piece of firewood, fracturing his skull.

“It was a brutal, brutal murder,” said Tirico, who went to the scene that night.

Porter, then 32, was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The board’s chairwoman told legislators the evidence at Porter’s parole hearing led the board to conclude he is no longer a danger to the community.

“The question before the board is, does the person present a danger to society? And the board determined that (Porter) had an emotional disturbance but that it was not so severe that it could not be controlled in the community,” said Chairwoman Kristin Winges-Yanez, who was a member of the three-person panel that voted to release Porter.

Several law enforcement organizations, including the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, say that Porter remains a threat to public safety and should serve his full term. They recently petitioned the board to reverse its decision.

“We find it reprehensible that this offender should receive parole at this time,” said Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell, speaking for the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police.

Winges-Yanez said the board considered the request to reopen the hearing but decided there was not enough compelling or new evidence to do so.

Rep. Brent Barton, D-Oregon City, was visibly upset over the board’s decision.

“Respectfully, it’s your judgment that’s in question,” he told Winges-Yanez.

Barton said Grant County District Attorney Ryan Joslin should also be held accountable for the board’s decision, and accused him of “malpractice” for not being at the parole hearing. Barton said the board might have come to a different conclusion if Joslin had been there to
explain why Porter shouldn’t be

Joslin, who did not prosecute the case, told lawmakers that his office received notices prior to the board’s February hearing, but that he didn’t realize it was Porter who was being considered for parole. He asked that the notices be made clearer in the future.

The board told lawmakers that it sent multiple notices to the district attorney’s office and the victim’s family, offering them the opportunity to speak at the hearing.

Ben Ward, the brother of the deceased officer, said he doesn’t understand why the board would consider releasing Porter.

“I don’t even know why I’m here to try to defend something that’s black and white,” he told lawmakers in a shaky voice.

The House committee does not have the authority to change the board’s decision. But Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, who called the hearing, said the Legislature may re-evaluate some of the laws governing the state Board of Parole’s procedures.