Trevor Walraven was 14 years old when he stepped in front of a car in rural Oregon, held up the driver at gunpoint, ignored his pleas for mercy, and then killed him.
At his trial for aggravated murder in 1999, Walraven might have seemed like an irredeemably lost soul. But 16 years later, he would get described as a “poster child” for rehabilitation.
Captain Tom Watson, a 29-year veteran of the corrections system, testified at Walraven’s early release hearing that he didn’t expect to ever see Walraven back in prison. A laundry-wing supervisor admitted he’d be losing his best worker. A prison officer said Walraven had done everything asked of him for 16 years behind bars.
“If anybody deserves a shot,” the officer said, “Trevor Walraven deserves a shot.”
Judge Timothy Gerking ultimately agreed. “I do find by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Walraven has been reformed and rehabilitated,” Gerking said. “I believe that society would be better off returning Mr. Walraven to the community.”
That was four years ago. Today, Walraven’s early release is still under appeal, and his legal limbo is exposing some contradictions in our state’s approach to juvenile justice.
THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Walraven received an early release hearing in 2014 because he was 14 years old when he committed his crime. If he’d been a year older, Walraven wouldn’t have received a hearing for another 10+ years.
That’s because the state’s “second look” law doesn’t apply to most defendants over 14 years old, which is a cutoff with no scientific justification. Research has consistently found that the parts of the brain responsible for rational thinking and impulse control aren’t fully developed for most people until their 20s. So holding a 15-year-old more accountable than a 14-year-old doesn’t really make sense, except for one thing…
THE MEASURE 11 PROBLEM: Approved by voters in 1994, Measure 11 requires 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds charged with certain felonies in Oregon to be tried as adults. And if convicted, those juveniles face the same mandatory minimum sentences as defendants twice their age. That “mandatory” part is why lawmakers can’t raise the eligibility cutoff for second-look hearings, at least not until voters revisit Measure 11.
WHAT CHANGE COULD LOOK LIKE: Many reform advocates want to get rid of mandatory minimums entirely — but rolling them back for juveniles would be one way to start. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that kids are inherently different than adults and should be treated differently under the law. That could mean shorter sentences, but it could also mean more opportunities to demonstrate rehabilitation and earn early release.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT WW ARTICLE? If you’re like us, you might have been under the impression that Portland had a very progressive, even lenient approach to juvenile justice. And in a way, that’s true. As Willamette Week reported in 2014, Multnomah County now detains about 80 percent fewer juveniles than it did two decades ago, part of a strategy to keep youth out of jail for nonviolent offenses.
However, the opposite is true for violent crimes. Due to Measure 11, Oregon prosecutes teenage defendants as adults at a higher rate than almost any other state in the country. And because of mandatory minimums, some of those offenders will likely die in prison without ever receiving a meaningful opportunity for parole.
OUR DIRECTOR’S TAKE: “Is the purpose of our justice system to deliver retribution or facilitate rehabilitation? I’ve been chewing on that question ever since attending Walraven’s release hearing four years ago. I listened to all the testimony, and it was clear he’d turned his life around. But is that enough? It’s ultimately a question of values. In my view, I think it has to be.” —Ben
Trash to treasure. If you want to keep plastics out of the ocean and make a few bucks, take notes from Pooka Rice. She collects tiny pieces of trash at the coast and then turns them into pendants, pins, necklaces, and other surprisingly cool-looking jewelry that she sells online. (OPB)
Not so fast. On Monday, a union representing local ICE officials criticized Portland Police for not responding to calls made by ICE employees last month and placed the blame on Mayor Wheeler. Yesterday, Wheeler called that complaint “inaccurate and inflammatory,” and he said police did respond to 911 calls “when there were imminent life safety threats.” (OregonLive)
The e-scooter experience. We took an e-scooter for a spin earlier this week, and we pretty much agree with The O’s Lizzy Acker, especially when it comes to hand signals. Unless you have insane balance, taking a hand off the handlebars can feel pretty dangerous. But overall, the scooters are a fun way to get around. (OregonLive)
Shoe Dog billionaire. Shoe Dog, a memoir by billionaire Nike founder Phil Knight, is about to become a Netflix original. There’s no release date for the movie yet, so still plenty of time to read the book first. Here’s a review. (Willamette Week)
Get ready for Burger Week. It’s only 12 days until Burger Week and the return of $5 specialty burgers all around town. If you’re ready to start planning your burger binge, The Merc has a map of participating bars and restaurants to help you out. (Portland Mercury)
🎸 Friday, August 3 – Sunday, August 5: Head out to Portland’s beloved music festival Pickathon (Happy Valley)
🎸 Go to a summer show with Johnny Limbo (Lake Oswego)
🐕 Play trivia at Fido’s dog tap house (Tigard)
🖥️ Bring municipal broadband to Portland (Downtown)
🏄 Watch a doc about pro surfing (SE | Central Eastside)
🍷 Or watch a doc about Oregon’s minority winemakers (NW | Alphabet)
😂 Catch stand-up at Doug Fir – every Thursday (Central Eastside)
🌊 Eat, drink, and browse art at First Thursday (NW | Pearl)
😎 Dress up for 80’s night at Crystal Ballroom (Downtown)
💃 Party at a rooftop benefit concert (SE | Hawthorne)
🌲 Watch Isle of Dogs in the park (Downtown)
🇫🇷 Go to the French Quarter Market (SW | Multnomah Village)
🇫🇷 Or see a French film – through Sunday (Downtown)
🌶️ Dare to try the Hot Sauce Expo – through Sunday (SE | Central Eastside)
🇮🇷 Celebrate the Iranian Festival (Downtown)
🎥 Watch a classic film at Hollywood Theatre (NE | Hollywood)
🍷 Taste wine and bring your pup (Multiple locations)
🍺 Watch a movie at a bar – every Sunday (SE | Hawthorne)
🍨 Eat scoops at an ice cream carnival (Downtown) 🆕
🎡 Check out the annual Lents Fair (SE | Lents)
🇻🇪 Or go to the first Venezuelan Festival (SE | Sellwood)
Going to one of these? Take us with you! Email a pic to [email protected] or tag #bridgeliner on Instagram to be featured.
Huge thanks to everyone who shared intel and ideas yesterday to help us get to the bottom of our PDXplained investigation. We so appreciate your smarts, and we’ll have more answers next Tuesday. 👌
We’ll see you tomorrow.