As opening statements in the Woodburn bombing trial approach, I've decided to satisfy my inner wonk by putting up some brief posts containing background material.
The Presiding Judge
Judge Thomas Hart will preside over the trial of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge. Stacey Barchenger of the StatesmanJournal has a piece offering some details about Judge Hart's career:
- He holds a Bachelor's degree in History from Ball State University (Muncie, In., 1979) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Oregon(1986).
- Judge Hart began his career as a lawyer and was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1987.
- Earlier in his career Judge Hart worked as a Deputy Distric Attorney in Marion county.
- Circuit Judges are elected and Judge Hart is up for reelection this year. Thus far he is running unopposed. His term will expire January 3rd, 2011- a date very close to the projected end of the Turnidge trial.
- Oregon Judicial officials have said that Judge Hart was selected on a random, rotating basis. If so, this is an interesting coincidence because Judge Hart also presided over another attention-grabbing bombing trial: the case of Lonnie Glinski.
In 2007 Glinski was put on trial for setting a total of 4 pipe bombs in the Salem area. One bomb was installed in his ex-wife's car with the intention of murdering her so that he could gain custody of their children. The other 3 were apparently placed in random locations to confuse the police and disguise the murder.
The psychologist who evaluated Glinski described him as severely depressed and psychotic, but he was apparently a gifted bomb-maker, according to Katu.com:
The devices were reportedly so sophisticated that the units not destroyed are used by law enforcement as part of their high-level training.
Video of one bomb being exploded shows the blast lifting large hay bales into the air as a ball of flame bursts from the test site.
Fortunately for the intended victims, none of the bombs ever exploded. This meant that Glinski was prosecuted on charges of possessing a destructive device and attempted aggravated murder. Glinski was 45 years old at the time of the trial and Judge Hart sentenced him to 70 years with no chance of parole, which made it effectively a life sentence.
A quote from one of the witnesses:
One of Glinski's random victims, Denise Foster, told Hart her husband is stationed overseas and was shocked to learn she'd almost been blown up.
"He had to learn there was a terrorist in our own community," Foster said.
Sadly, 2008 showed that there more yet more terrorists in the Salem area.
The StatesmanJournal article says that Judge Hart has never presided over an aggravated murder trial, and while that is technically true, I suspect that he might find his experience in the Glinski trial useful.
He has certainly dealt with bombs and attempted murder before.
The trial of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge will take place in courtroom 2A of the Marion County Courthouse in Salem, Oregon.
You can see a picture of the courthouse here.
(No offense to Oregonians, but I find this building Soviet-style ugly.)
Oregon has 27 Circuit Court districts serving 37 counties. These courts are operated by the Oregon Judicial Department and they handle a broad range of cases:
Among other powers, the circuit court has the power in civil cases to
- dissolve marriages and distribute the assets of the parties;
- award or change legal custody of children;
- determine who has title to land;
- distribute a decedent's property and possessions;
- preside over trials;
- commit juveniles to state institutions and place dependent children in substitute care;
- approve adoptions;
- commit mentally ill persons to state hospitals; and
- issue injunctions.
In criminal cases, the circuit court:
- conducts pretrial hearings and trials;
- sentences convicted persons to Oregon's "corrections" system (e.g., jail, prison, probation); and
- imposes the death penalty in certain "capital" murder cases.
The circuit courts employ 173 circuit judges. Marion County Circuit court is in the 3rd judicial district and has 14 elected judges that serve 6-year terms. (A map of Oregon judicial districts can be seen here.)
If the circuit court sentences a defendant to death, that sentence mustbe appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, which has 7 elected justices. Only the Supreme Court of the United States can overturn Oregon Supreme Court decisions.
This means that if either Bruce or Joshua Turnidge is given the death penalty, their only avenue of appeal will be the Oregon Supreme Court.