By editorial board • 

Vineyard sentencing laxity does public a disservice

Few jurists boast the distinction and standing to challenge one of Judge John Collins’ ably argued legal opinions. As it happens, none of them sits on the News-Register Editorial Board.

But we are quite sure we reflect the majority opinion in hoping remorseless teen murderer Andrew David Vineyard doesn’t move in next door on July 31, 2026. Because he could, as the juvenile corrections system is required to release him on his 25th birthday, even if he fails to ever appreciate the enormity of his crime or reorient his thinking to ensure it isn’t repeated.

Take your choice. That situation either comes courtesy of Collins’ faulty reading of Senate Bill 1008, or that of the Oregon Legislature when it enacted the measure into law during its 2019 regular session.

We’re putting our money on the latter. But the legislation needs fixing regardless, in order to protect the public from a second miscarriage of this magnitude.

Now 18, Vineyard was just 15 on March 8, 2017, when he used a box cutter to slit the throat of his dad’s girlfriend, feeling she was receiving too much of dad’s attention. When that didn’t do the job, he bludgeoned her repeatedly with a baseball bat, monitored her pulse until her life ebbed away, then sexually assaulted her post-mortem — his most repugnant and unconscionable act of all.

After brewing a cup of tea and watching television, he stole a gun belonging to his dad’s best friend, due to drop by shortly. He used loud music to muffle the sound of test shots fired into a mattress, then ambushed unsuspecting Ronald Spiker with bullets to the neck and hip.

The truant high school sophomore tried in vain to clean up the bloody scene, then rode his bike to the courthouse to turn himself in. He later observed, “Boy, I wasted my life.”

Yes, it was still all about him. He shed no tears for the victims of his savage and utterly unprovoked attacks.

Despite his actions and demeanor, we have Collins finding him amenable to treatment and rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system, thus not culpable as an adult. The distinguished jurist based that decision on the wording of a bill enacted more than two years after the fact, but, in the wisdom of the Oregon Legislature, made retroactive.

Victim Kimberly Forness, a fixture at Hopscotch Toys downtown, left behind three daughters. And unlike Vineyard, she won’t be getting any do-overs.

Daughter Ellie Forness, testifying at Vinyard’s perfunctory sentencing hearing, shone the cold light of day on this ugly disparity when she admonished assembled functionaries, “All of you serving the state should have done better.” Indeed, starting with some conspicuous by their absence — our representatives in Salem.

Fortunately for them — and, more importantly, to us — they share something in common with Vineyard. They still have a shot at redemption.

Here’s hoping they take it.

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