Jury requested for new Gilley sentencing

Billy Frank Gilley Jr.'s defense team believes a jury should determine whether he was fairly handed three consecutive life sentences for the 1984 murders of his parents and younger sister at their home on Ross Lane in Medford.

Defense attorney Paul Beneke filed the motion last week seeking a jury at Gilley's upcoming resentencing in Jackson County Circuit Court. It is now up to Judge Ray White to decide whether a jury will be present at the resentencing.

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

Beneke is basing his motion on a 2007 Oregon Supreme Court case — which is schedule to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court later this year — in which it was ruled that a jury, and not a judge alone, should determine whether a defendant is eligible for consecutive sentencing.

Gilley, 42, spent decades appealing his conviction, and recently was granted the right to a new sentencing hearing by the U.S. District Court in Portland, a decision upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gilley has maintained that his defense attorney, Steve Pickens, did not provide effective legal assistance at the trial. Gilley was given three consecutive life sentences by Judge Mitchell Karaman. Neither Gilley nor Pickens provided any possible mitigating circumstances for the murders during the trial.

Gilley did not testify in his own defense. Pickens called no witnesses and only cross-examined one prosecution witness, Billy's sister, Jody.

"This is a chance for a jury to listen to additional facts of the case," Beneke said. "Gilley did not have that opportunity 24 years ago because of his ineffective defense. Also, we intend to show the steps Gilley has made to rehabilitate himself while in prison and the severe abuse he suffered at the hands of his family. None of this was presented at his original trial."

Beneke is hoping Gilley will receive a lighter sentence this time around by having the life sentences run concurrently. If Gilley had received the minimum sentence in 1984, he could have qualified for parole after 20 years, the Mail Tribune reported at the time.

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said the 2007 ruling should not apply to Gilley's case.

"I don't think he has the right for a jury to determine his new sentence," Huddleston said. "The motion is based on a newer case, which from my understanding, cannot be applied to Gilley's trial 24 years ago."

The motion could be accepted or rejected by White sometime next month during a status hearing, Huddleston said.

Both attorneys are gearing up for a lengthy battle to decide Gilley's fate.

"Whether or not a jury is impaneled, this case will require us to present the facts to the court," Huddleston said. "We will have to call witnesses and experts before the new sentence is decided."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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