Eagle file photo/2013
SALEM – Sidney Dean Porter, who killed a John Day police officer nearly 23 years ago, will get a new shot at freedom next week in a hearing before members of the Oregon Board of Parole.
Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter said he will travel to Salem to testify at the Jan. 27 hearing, and he has already submitted a package of materials about the crime to the board.
“I will ask them not to release him,” Carpenter said, noting he will underscore the depravity of the crime.
“The facts of the crime are unrefuted by anyone, except Porter himself,” he said.
Porter, now 55, was sentenced in 1992 for the bludgeoning death of Officer Frank Ward, who had gone to Porter’s home on a domestic assault call.
This is the second time Porter has come up for release. The board ordered his release in 2012, after a hearing missed by then-DA Ryan Joslin.
The decision to release a convicted killer of a police officer, coming with no local law enforcement input, sparked protests across the state from police officials and prompted a legislative committee hearing. The board reopened the hearing in 2013, this time deferring Porter’s release until at least June 2015.
Next week’s hearing will set the stage for release or up to two more years of incarceration.
The hearing will be held at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, with public attendance only by prior arrangement with the Corrections Department.
Described as an exit interview, the hearing allows the board to review psychological or psychiatric evaluations, discuss the offender’s conduct in prison, and examine his parole plan.
Carpenter said Porter’s most recent psych evaluation – in December – indicates Porter lacks remorse, and that he won’t take responsibility for how the crime actually occurred.
Witnesses at trial said Ward had been bashed on the head with one or more pieces of firewood, and that an intoxicated Porter was found at the scene with large amounts of blood on his hands and clothing. A police officer’s affidavit reported that Porter was belligerent with the responding police and threatened one officer who wasn’t meeting his demands for a glass of water.
Carpenter said Porter continues to maintain he merely pushed Ward, who then fell against a wood stove and hit his head.
Ward was taken to Blue Mountain Hospital, where he died. His injuries included skull fracture, multiple cuts and scrapes, blackened eyes, and swollen lips, forehead and “essentially the whole face,” the affidavit said.
Carpenter said the December evaluation found that Porter claims to have been in a blackout state during much of the crime, while clearly recalling some details that would be in his favor.
Porter’s proposal for his parole is to move to a family-owned ranch in the Monument area and attend AA meetings to maintain sobriety.
Other law enforcement officials and a brother of Ward are expected to testify at the hearing. It may also draw some supporters of Porter, who argued before that he has served his time.