Nov. 16, 1984
Jurors took eight hours to find Billy Frank Gilley Jr. guilty of all three counts of aggravated murder after a trial in which virtually no defense was presented.
Gilley, 19, was convicted of bludgeoning his mother, father and sister to death with a baseball bat at the family's North Ross Lane home April 27.
The key witness against Gilley in the two-day trial was his 16-year-old sister Jody, who was in the house when her brother went from room to room and bashed in the heads of his sleeping mother and father, and of his 11-year-old sister, Becky. The prosecution said Becky was killed because she saw the killings.
The six-man, six woman jury retired at 2:15 Thursday afternoon to deliberate toward a verdict after they heard an air-tight case built by Jackson County District Attorney Justin Smith, and virtually no defense by court-appointed counsel Steven Pickers.
Pickens cross-examined only one of 10 prosecution witnesses, and rested without calling any witnesses.
During a break in the trial, Pickens said Gilley chose not to testify.
In his final remarks to the jury, Pickens said the defense didn’t dispute that the case was tragic, but he told jurors that the issue was Gilley’s mental state at the time of the slayings.
“Do we have the right crime charged?” Pickens asked. “The one I feel that has been proven is manslaughter.”
Zeroing in on Becky Gilley’s death, Pickens said that, unfortunately, Becky came downstairs, screamed, and Gilley’s instinct was to quiet her. She died a day later of massive head injuries.
In the deaths of Gilley’s mother, Linda Louise Gilley, 37, and his father, Bill Frank Gilley Sr., 40 Pickens said his client “meant to punish, not to kill.”
Pickens, while cross-examining Jody, noted that a machete was lying on a shelf near where Gilley’s father was slain. Outside the courtroom, Pickens said he planned to tell jurors that if Gilley had intended to murder the victims, he would have used the machete instead of the baseball bat.
But Pickens didn’t mention that to jurors during his summation. He later said he forgot.
Asked why — with the lack of defense — the case even went to trial, Pickens said the only alternative was for Gilley to plead guilty, and that in a trial he at least had a chance of an acquittal or reduced charge.
Throughout the trial, Smith wove a picture of the events that took place the night of the slayings. Using testimony from Oregon State Police Criminalist Lt. Brad Telyea, medical examiners, and the brain surgeon who tried to save the life of Becky, Smith established that the victims died of heavy blows from the baseball bat.
Jody testified that hours before the slayings Gilley said he would like to bash his mother’s head in, and that Gilley had been beating a cardboard box with the bat shortly after that.
The closest thing to a motive established in testimony was that Gilley thought he had been punished too severely over the years by his parents, and that he feared Jody was about to fall victim to the same severity of punishment.
After seven hours of deliberation Thursday night, jurors came back into Circuit Court Judge Mitchell Karaman’s courtroom and announced that they had reached a verdict on two of the three counts, but were deadlocked on the third.
Before that, the jury had sent a note to the judge saying they were at an 11-1 deadlock on the charge involving Becky.
Apparently one juror held out for a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of the little girl.
Karaman Thursday night told the jurors to go home and come back at 9 this morning and try to reach a verdict. He cautioned them not to read anything, watch television, or talk to anyone about the case while out of the courtroom.
When jurors resumed deliberations this morning, they took only 40 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty on all three charges.
Karaman ordered a pre-sentence investigation by the Oregon Corrections Division. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled upon completion of the report in about a month.
Each conviction on aggravated murder carries a maximum life sentence with a mandatory minimum of 30 years. Parole can’t be considered until 20 years have been served.
Smith said he didn’t know whether he would recommend consecutive or concurrent sentences at the time of sentencing. He said there is some question whether state law allows consecutive life sentences, and that interpretations of the statute differ throughout the state.