Court hears Gilley sentencing arguments

The defense team of convicted triple murderer Billy Frank Gilley Jr. and Jackson County prosecutors squared off Thursday before Circuit Court Judge Ray White in an hourlong battle over legal theories related to Gilley's pending resentencing hearing.

In 1984 Gilley was convicted of the aggravated murders of his parents and youngest sister at their Medford home.

Found guilty on all three counts after a two-day trial, Gilley had little to say at his sentencing, other than he had had "great fear." He received three life sentences, to run consecutively, from Judge Mitchell Karaman.

Gilley, now 43, has spent decades appealing his conviction, and recently was granted a new sentencing hearing by the U.S. District Court in Portland, a decision the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld on grounds that Gilley did not have effective legal representation.

On Thursday, White listened to oral arguments presented by Gilley's defense attorney, Paul Beneke, and counterpoint by District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

Beneke believes a jury should determine whether Gilley was fairly handed three consecutive life sentences. He has filed a motion seeking a jury at Gilley's resentencing. Beneke is basing his motion on a 2007 Oregon Supreme Court case which ruled that a jury, and not a judge alone, should determine whether a defendant is eligible for consecutive sentencing.

Gilley has a right under the Sixth Amendment to have a jury hear additional facts regarding the case before his sentencing, Beneke said.

Huddleston disagreed, saying Beneke's motion is based on a newer case which should not be applied to Gilley's trial, which took place 24 years ago.

"There is no limitation on a judge to impose consecutive sentences," Huddleston said.

No decision was reached. Beneke has until Aug. 29 to submit his written briefs. Huddleston has until Sept. 5 to respond. White will render his ruling on the jury debate after reviewing the material, he said.

Gilley remains in jail awaiting his resentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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