Oregon Jurors weigh death penalty for father, son Only 2 executions in state since 1962

By Jonathan J. Cooper

Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- An Oregon jury began hearing arguments Thursday about whether a father and son should be sentenced to death after they were convicted of planting a bomb that killed two police officers inside a bank.

After deliberating for less than five hours, the same jurors on Wednesday convicted Bruce Turnidge, 58, and Joshua Turnidge, 34, of aggravated murder and other charges in the 2008 bombing in Woodburn. Both defendants stood silently as Judge Tom Hart read the verdicts.

If jurors decide death isn't warranted, they can sentence the men to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

A death sentence would trigger an automatic appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court and set off a judicial review that could last decades.

Since 1962, only two condemned inmates have been executed in Oregon -- both men who gave up their appeals. The state has 34 men on death row, including some who were sentenced more than 20 years ago.

Kelly Mix, a brother-in-law of one of the officers killed, Woodburn Police Capt. Tom Tennant, said he was pleased with the verdict but not surprised.

"For us, it doesn't change the fact that my brother-in-law is dead," Mix told The Oregonian. "I'm not opposed to the death penalty if the jury thinks that's the right punishment."

The homemade bomb exploded at the West Coast Bank in Woodburn less than two weeks before Christmas 2008, killing state police bomb technician William Hakim, who was trying to dismantle it, as well as Tennant, who was helping. The town's police chief, Scott Russell, lost a leg in the explosion.

It was a jarring crime that made communities and police departments examine themselves, wondering what went wrong and if they would be prepared for such a catastrophe.

"It can be a very painful reminder to all of us of how delicate we all are," said Stuart Roberts, president of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and the police boss in the eastern Oregon town of Pendleton.

The father and son turned against each other during the trial, but their lawyers came together to throw the blame for detonating the blast on Hakim, who mistakenly identified the green-painted metal box as a hoax. Prosecutors argued that a stray radio signal, perhaps from a passing trucker, activated a remote-controlled device that triggered the bomb.

"Bill Hakim, Tom, Chief Russell saved lives," Joanna Mix, Tennant's sister, told the Statesman Journal. "Officer Hakim was doing his job to the best of his ability. Tom was assisting him to the best of his ability, and that's what they both did and loved about their jobs; trying to help. I was afraid the jury wouldn't see that."

Joshua Turnidge testified that he bought two cell phones and materials used to build the bomb without knowing his father planned to use them to rob a bank.

Bruce Turnidge did not take the stand, but family members denied he hated police or held extremist political views.

State police declined to comment on the verdict, and the judge prohibited lawyers in the case from speaking to the media.

Published: Fri, Dec 10, 2010