Death Penalty Affirmed for Oregon Bomb-Makers

     (CN) – A father-son duo who killed two police officers in a 2008 bank bombing had their convictions and death penalties upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court.
     Joshua Turnidge and his father, Bruce, were each convicted of aggravated murder for the bombing at a bank in Woodburn.
     As quoted in the May 5 decision, a Wells Fargo teller who answered the phone on Dec. 12, 2008, heard a voice say, “If you value your life and the life of your employees, you need to [redacted] get out because I’m going to kill you, you [redacted] are all going to die.”
     The caller told the teller to evacuate the bank and pick up a cell phone left outside in a plastic bag for further instructions. The teller called 911 and the police and bomb squad arrived.
     They found the phone and determined it was not an explosive device.
     However, the caller had also mentioned a similar attack on a nearby West Coast Bank branch. A detective found a large metal box in the bushes there.
     When the bank and landscaper said they were not familiar with the box, the bomb squad was called to the scene. Trooper William Hakim of the Oregon State Police called the box “a very good hoax device.”
     It was a rainy day, and the bank had closed. Hakim took the device inside the bank to dismantle it. He used a hammer and crowbar to open the box.
     “There, I got it,” he said.
     One second later, the box exploded.
     Hakim and Capt. Thomas Tennant of the Woodburn Police Department died. Two other officers were injured, with one losing his right leg.
     Investigators learned where the bombers bought the TracPhones and airtime cards. A Wal-Mart surveillance video led the police to a license-bureau photo of Joshua Turnidge.
     After arresting Joshua, police searched his father Bruce’s property. They found tools in the pole barn that could have been used to build the bomb.
     Investigators learned from the Turnidges’ friends and associates that Bruce had spoken in the past about bank robbery scenarios, including the use of explosives as a diversion.
     A friend of the younger Turnidge said that many years earlier, Joshua had told him that he had called in a bomb threat to a bank that was near the two banks involved in the explosion.
     In addition, Joshua’s former fiancée said that he and his father had reacted in a “jubilant” manner to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
     Also, at the time of the Oregon bombing, the Turnidges’ biodiesel business was not turning a profit.
     During the trial, Joshua testified that his father had planned, constructed and detonated the bomb. Bruce did not testify in his defense.
     The trial court convicted both Turnidges of aggravated murder, conspiracy, assault and unlawful manufacture and possession of a destructive device.
     Both were sentenced to death, and the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the convictions in opinions written by Senior Justice Pro Tempore Virginia Linder.
     Joshua argued that the trial court should have severed his trial from that of his father, but in her May 5 opinion, Linder stated that a joint trial was not “clearly inappropriate.”
     Also, Joshua stated that the destruction of jury questionnaires violated his due process rights. Linder disagreed.
     “Both parties had an opportunity to object to the representation (to the jurors) that the questionnaires would be destroyed; neither party did,” Linder noted.
     She also refuted Joshua’s argument that the trial court should not have admitted testimony about his previously phoned-in bomb threat to another bank. Linder wrote that the state sought to establish that the threat was a “trial run” for the bombing that took place 13 years later.
     “That theory of logical relevance is bolstered in the context of other evidence that the state introduced, without objection, about defendant’s prior statements about robbing banks,” she stated.
     The Turnidges’ views were also relevant evidence, according to Linder.
     “The fact that defendant held vehement anti-government, anti-establishment, and anti-law enforcement views supplied evidence of his motive for his participation in the ultimate explosion that killed and injured law enforcement officers,” she wrote.
     In a separate opinion confirming Bruce’s conviction, Linder wrote that evidence of his views, which date back 30 years, were also properly admitted.
     “Evidence of defendant’s anti-government sentiments and activities, his desires to form anti-government militias, his celebration of the Oklahoma City bombing, and his infatuation with the idea of killing police officers at a police memorial all logically supported the state’s theory of why defendant engaged in the bombing,” she wrote.
     The Turnidges did not challenge their death sentences, which the Oregon Supreme Court also affirmed. However, according to the Salem Statesman-Journal, Oregon has had a moratorium on executions since 2011.

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