Inmate's release reversed, canceled

Nigel Duara / The Associated Press /


Published Oct 16, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

PORTLAND — The Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision voted 2-1 to deny parole to a man who has spent 21 years in prison after killing a John Day police officer.

Sidney Dean Porter was originally set to be released after a hearing earlier this year, but Gov. John Kitzhaber asked board members to hold a new hearing in order to give law enforcement additional input in the decision.

This time, after hearing from the victim’s brother and a prosecutor, two board members reversed their previous decision and deemed Porter unfit for release, citing his account of the day he killed officer Frank Ward differing from the prosecution’s version.

“Inmate failed to demonstrate a full understanding of his criminal offense,” wrote the two board members in their majority vote. “The board found that his statements minimized his actions.”

Though the board members’ names are public record, the board did not identify which of them voted for Porter’s release.

The decision issued Tuesday means Porter will have to wait until February 2015 for another parole hearing.

When asked whether the decision was a surprise, Porter’s attorney, Andy Simrin, said, “It depends on what you’d call a surprise.”

“Is it consistent with applicable law? I’d say the answer is no,” Simrin said.

Porter pleaded no contest to aggravated murder in Ward’s 1992 death. The officer was responding to a complaint of loud music and screaming at Porter’s home. Porter fractured Ward’s skull with a log of firewood.

In February, the board granted Porter’s release, but it was challenged by prosecutors, police and Ward’s family.

After Kitzhaber intervened, the board reconsidered his release at a September hearing, when it heard from Ward’s brother, a prosecutor and Porter himself.

Simrin argued in September that the government had created a constitutional problem when it first granted Porter’s release.

Due process, Simrin said, called for the board to follow through and release Porter.

The board did not appear to take that consideration into account when two of its members voted to keep Porter in prison.

Among the issues raised by the board members voting against Porter’s release was his understating a history of domestic violence and a fear that he would relapse into alcohol abuse if released.

The board member who voted for Porter’s release said he did indeed suffer from an emotional disturbance, but such a disturbance was not “so severe as to constitute a danger to the health or safety of the community.”