The sentence of life in prison has been overturned in the case of a man convicted of murdering his parents and a sister in 1984 in Medford.

The sentence of life in prison has been overturned in the case of a man convicted of murdering his parents and a sister in 1984 in Medford.

Billy Gilley was granted the right to a new sentence following the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' affirmation on Aug. 31 of an earlier U.S. District Court opinion that Gilley's attorney provided ineffective counsel during the sentencing phase of his trial. However, Gilley's convictions on three counts of aggravated murder stand, the Appeals Court ruled.

"What actually happened is a victory for the state," said Peter Shepherd, deputy Oregon attorney general.

Gilley likely will pursue further appeals, which will take at least several months, before he returns to Jackson County for a new sentence, Shepherd said. He will not be released from custody, but at some point will be housed at the Jackson County Jail pending a new hearing, Shepherd said. Gilley is at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, according to a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Despite Gilley's appeals, there is widespread agreement on the facts of the case.

On April 26, 1984, Jody Gilley skipped high school classes. When she returned home, she got into an argument with her mother, Linda. Billy Gilley, then 18, told his sister that he would like to bash his mother's head in with a baseball bat. He also angrily referred to his father's practice of whipping him with a garden hose.

Later that night, Billy Gilley woke up Jody and told her to keep their younger sister, Becky, upstairs. But Becky followed her brother downstairs. Jody heard Becky scream, followed by pounding sounds. Billy Gilley came back upstairs covered with blood. He said they were "free now." He said it was like "Friday the 13th" and "more messy than he thought it would be."

Gilley later admitted to the murders, claiming he killed his parents to protect Jody. He said he killed Becky by accident.

U.S. Magistrate Donald Ashmanskas in December 2004 reversed Gilley's conviction, ruling that Gilley's original attorney inadequately defended him in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The 9th Circuit reversed Ashmanskas' decision as to the "guilt phase" of Gilley's trial, but agreed with his opinion as to Gilley's sentencing phase. A competent defense counsel, the court wrote, would have presented mitigation evidence at sentencing, including an expert's explanation that Gilley presented virtually no risk of recidivism.

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said he anticipates the only issue at Gilley's new sentencing will be whether his sentences of life with a minimum of 30 years should run back-to-back or at the same time. Circuit Court Judge Mitchell Karaman stacked two of Gilley's sentences for a total of 90 years (see correction below), Huddleston said. Oregon's death penalty was not in effect during Gilley's trial.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail

Correction: The original version of this story included reference to the incorrect number of years in Gilley's total sentence. This version has been corrected.