federal judge on Tuesday denied Kipland P. Kinkel’s motion in state court that could have affected his 112-year sentence for fatally shooting his parents and then killing two students at Thurston High School and wounding 24 others in 1998.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to review Kinkel’s sentencing, meaning a ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court upholding his sentence stands.
This year, though, Kinkel, now 38, filed a new motion in federal court, seeking to certify two questions before the state’s high court that stem from his age – 15 – at the time of the mass shooting. First, does the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision have authority to release him — a juvenile offender — to post-prison supervision?
Second, does state law allow the parole board to consider whether he’s capable of rehabilitation after serving 25 years in custody, which would be May 2023?
Kinkel’s sentence now doesn’t allow for his release until Jan. 21, 2110 – a de facto life term without parole. He’s currently held at the medium-security Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem.
His lawyers argue that if the state allows for a “release mechanism” before the end of his full sentence, it would resolve whether the long sentence for a juvenile offender violates the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken noted that the Oregon Supreme Court held that Kinkel’s sentence didn’t violate the Eighth Amendment because his crimes reflected “not the transient immaturity of youth” but an “irretrievably depraved character,” arising from a deep-seated psychological problem “that will not diminish as petitioner matures.”
The state Supreme Court noted that Kinkel’s sentencing judge found that he had an incurable illness, either paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
Aiken said the state Supreme Court didn’t discuss the possibility of a rehabilitation hearing for Kinkel and that Kinkel and his lawyers hadn’t raised this “complex issue of state law” until their motion in federal court.
Further, Kinkel wouldn’t be eligible for any type of parole board hearing until 2023, after he serves 25 years in prison and “the proposed questions are arguably unripe,” Aiken wrote. Further, the parole board isn’t a party to Kinkel’s challenge in federal court, the judge said.
With Aiken’s ruling, Kinkel’s petition for federal court review to determine if his prison term is lawful — a petition for writ of habeas corpus — proceeds. Aiken ordered his lawyers to file a brief supporting their petition in 90 days.