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Luke Wirkkala murder retrial delayed again, until October

Deschutes County Jail
Luke Anton Wirkkala

Appeals court vacated first conviction in David Ryder's death in 2018

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – COVID-19 issues have prompted another, four-month delay in Tuesday’s planned retrial of a Bend man whose murder conviction in the 2013 shooting death of a house guest was overturned more than two years ago by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The court in early 2018 reversed the conviction of Luke Anton Wirkkala, now 39, in the February 2013 shooting death of David Ryder, 31. Wirkkala insisted he acted in self-defense by firing a single shotgun blast at close range after a night of Super Bowl partying, saying Ryder attacked and sexually assaulted him.

The appeals court said the facts of the crime itself were not in dispute, only that police were wrong to keep questioning Wirkkala the night of the shooting after he invoked his right to counsel, and that Deschutes County Circuit Judge Stephen Forte erred in denying the defense attorney’s motion to suppress the taped interview as a result.

A jury after five hours of deliberation convicted Wirkkala, who was sentenced in August 2014 to life in prison, with at least 25 years before he could seek parole.

In April 2018, after the appeals court ruling, Wirkkala was returned to the Deschutes County Jail, where he’s been held without bail awaiting retrial ever since.

Court records show the three-week trial that had been scheduled to begin Tuesday has been put off until Oct. 26, due to “coronavirus concerns,” and is now expected to take four weeks. The latest of several delays was granted by Forte in late May.

There have been other recent motion hearings and orders by Circuit Judge Wells Ashby, including that prosecutors must provide the defense with a list of employees in the district attorney’s office as of 2013.

A week ago, Wirkkala's attorneys filed a 19-page motion asking the judge to allow evidence of "prior bad acts" of the alleged victim, noting "a plethora of new Oregon appellate cases" since 2014 "that upend this court's prior rulings regarding the exclusion of Mr. Ryder's past behavior."

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Barney Lerten

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