Oregon v. BallAnnotate this Case
In April 2017, defendant Zachary Ball was charged by indictment with six Class C felonies. Appellant, who was a crime victim, filed a claim in the trial court, pursuant to ORS 147.515, alleging that the trial court violated her right to be heard when it sentenced the defendant who had committed crimes against her. In December 2017, the trial court facilitated settlement negotiations between the prosecutor and defendant, who was represented by counsel. Although appellant did not participate in those negotiations, she sat in the hallway outside the room where the negotiations occurred, and the prosecutor consulted with her before ultimately agreeing with defendant to terms of a plea and sentencing. The sentencing hearing took place in January 2018; appellant attended. Appellant was given approximately twenty minutes to deliver her statement; thereafter, defendant was sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment and 32 months’ post-prison supervision for attempted assault in the second degree, 18 months’ imprisonment and 24 months post-prison supervision for assault in the fourth degree, to be served concurrently, and 60 months’ probation for coercion. Upon receipt of appellant’s claim, the trial court held a hearing. The trial court acknowledged that it had interrupted appellant’s victim impact statement twice and stopped appellant before she had the opportunity to complete her statement. As to both of the interruptions and the termination of appellant’s statement, the trial court stated that its objective had been “to focus on the statements that [appellant] wanted to say and how she felt about it, and about the crimes that * ** defendant was convicted of.” The Oregon Supreme Court held a trial court has the authority and responsibility to conduct a sentencing hearing in an orderly and expeditious manner and may exclude certain statements by victims, including those that are irrelevant, unfairly prejudicial, or cumulative. In addition, a trial court may limit a victim impact statement if the victim disregards the trial court’s appropriate instructions regarding the content or length of the statement. In this case, the trial court’s interruptions of appellant’s statement, which were for the permissible purpose of having appellant focus on the charged crimes and her own experiences with the defendant, did not violate appellant’s right to be heard. However, the trial court’s termination of appellant’s statement, when appellant was discussing a relevant topic that was not outside the limits imposed by the trial court, did violate appellant’s right to be heard. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s decision denying appellant’s claim, vacated defendant’s sentence, and remanded the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.