Justices affirm Woodburn bombing convictions
PORTLAND — The Oregon Supreme Court has affirmed convictions and death sentences for a father and son found guilty of killing two police officers in a bank bombing.
Bruce Turnidge and his son, Joshua Turnidge, were convicted of murder in 2010 by a jury who agreed with prosecutors that the pair planted a bomb that exploded at a bank in Woodburn, a small city between Portland and Salem.
The December 2008 blast killed state police bomb technician William Hakim, who was trying to dismantle the explosive, and Woodburn Capt. Tom Tennant, who was helping. The city's police chief, Scott Russell, lost a leg.
Prosecutors said the Turnidges fantasized about starting an anti-government militia and hatched a bank robbery plan because they needed money to maintain their struggling biodiesel company.
Oregon law requires the state Supreme Court to review verdicts and sentences in death-penalty cases for any legal errors in the trial court.
The high court Thursday rejected more than two dozen assertions of trial errors, on issues ranging from jury questionnaires to closing arguments to the denial of Joshua Turnidge's motion to be tried separately.
In one instance, Bruce Turnidge took issue with a closing statement in which the prosecutor told jurors about the defendant's zeal to form a militia and spread anti-government ideologies.
The state said the prosecutor raised the point because potential future danger is one thing the jury considers as it decides whether to sentence someone to death. Turnidge said argument violated his free-speech rights, but the court disagreed.
"Contrary to defendant's assertions, this is not a situation in which the prosecutor's statements urged the jury to punish defendant because of his abstract political beliefs or statements," the opinion states. "Rather, the state had presented evidence of defendant's beliefs that directly bore on his motivation for the murders at issue in this case."
The Turnidges are among more than 30 people on Oregon's Death Row. The state currently has a moratorium on executions.
Public defender Joshua Crowther, who argued on behalf of Joshua Turnidge, said this was just a first step and the challenges will continue.
"From our point of view, there are still several issues that need to be resolved," he said from Salem. "Most of the issues raised, if not all, had a federal component, so a federal court is going to need to look at the issues, which could be the United States Supreme Court."