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503-378-6002 or Jeff.D.Manning@doj.state.or.us
About Ellen F. Rosenblum
This morning, Attorney General John Kroger learned that four boxes of evidence in the Philip Scott Cannon murder case that were previously believed to have been destroyed were found at the Trial Division of the Department of Justice. Those boxes have since been secured at DOJ's Criminal Justice Division evidence room. At the request of AG Kroger, the Oregon State Police have agreed to investigate the mishandling of the evidence. Additional details about the discovery of the boxes are not available.
By way of background, Cannon was convicted in the 1998 killings of a man and two women in rural Polk County. After Cannon's initial appeals were denied, he filed a petition for Post Conviction Relief seeking a new trial on multiple grounds. That case was handled by the Department of Justice Trial Division. In 2009, DOJ agreed to grant Cannon a new trial in part because some of the scientific evidence used to prosecute him had been discredited since his conviction. The case was returned to Polk County for possible re-prosecution based on the remaining evidence in the case. However, investigators could not locate the boxes containing the evidence. A joint decision was made by the Polk County District Attorney and DOJ to drop the charges without prejudice, which would allow the case to be retried if new evidence emerged or the evidence was found. The assistant attorney general who was handling the Cannon case in the Trial Division resigned in 2010 for unrelated reasons.
Since learning that four boxes of evidence had been found, AG Kroger requested a full and independent investigation by the Oregon State Police. He also has personally contacted the Polk County District Attorney and the Polk County Sheriff to explain what steps would be taken next. The AG has also ordered a complete review of evidence handling at DOJ's Trial Division, where the records were found.
"Mishandling of evidence is completely unacceptable. As Attorney General, I take full responsibility. I have requested a full and independent investigation by the Oregon State Police," said Attorney General Kroger.
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