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Matthew Kleinman

Other Oregon Cases
Shortly before midnight on October 17, 1996, 19-year-old Junior Vaoiva was shot twice by a handgun fired from a car in a parking lot of a convenience store in Portland, Oregon.

Based on a witness’s description of the car, police soon arrested the driver, 17-year-old Matthew Kleinman. They also recovered a .380-caliber revolver from the vehicle.

Kleinman denied firing the gun. However, after Vaoiva identified Kleinman in a photographic lineup, Kleinman was charged with attempted murder, attempted assault (for a gunshot that missed) and two counts of assault for two shots that wounded Vaoiva.

Kleinman went to trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court in February 1997. Vaoiva testified that words were exchanged in the parking lot and that Kleinman fired a pistol three times, striking him twice. He denied that he provoked the confrontation.

Kleinman testified and admitted that he initially falsely denied shooting Vaoiva. He told the jury that Vaoiva had hurled a 40-ounce beer at the car’s driver’s side window and that he fired the shots in self-defense. Kleinman’s defense attorneys attempted to introduce evidence showing that in April 1996, Vaoiva had shattered the window of a car with baseball bat and chased the occupants of the vehicle with a knife. However, the trial judge granted the prosecution’s request to bar the evidence.

On February 14, 1997, the jury acquitted Kleinman of attempted murder and convicted him of attempted assault (for the gunshot that missed Vaoiva) and two counts of assault.

Prior to sentencing, Kleinman, who had been free on bond, fled Portland. He was arrested in July 2001—more than four years later—at his father’s home in Austin, Texas.

Returned to Portland, Kleinman was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Different attorneys took over his cases to prepare for the sentencing on the assault and attempted assault convictions and to represent him on the fugitive charges. The defense attorneys discovered that on the day of the shooting, a police officer had obtained a surveillance video of the parking lot where Vaoiva was shot, but that the report had not been disclosed to Kleinman’s defense attorney prior to his trial.

The report prepared by the officer who obtained the video was submitted separately from the reports prepared by the lead detective on the case. That report was never forwarded to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. By the time the report of the video was discovered, the video had already been destroyed by the evidence section of the Portland Police Department.

The defense filed a motion for a new trial based on the failure to disclose the video, which they claimed could have supported Kleinman’s contention that he acted in self-defense. In addition, the defense claimed that the prosecution had failed to disclose that in January 1996, 10 months prior to the shooting, Vaoiva had similarly attacked an individual using a beer bottle as a weapon.

On December 12, 2001, Kleinman’s convictions were vacated and he was granted a new trial. He subsequently was convicted of fleeing to avoid prosecution and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

On May 10, 2002, the prosecution dismissed the charges of assault and attempted assault against Kleinman.

Kleinman later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Portland police and the Multnomah District Attorney’s office, but the lawsuit was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/11/2016
State:Oregon
County:Multnomah
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:Attempt, Violent
Reported Crime Date:1996
Convicted:1997
Exonerated:2002
Sentence:Not sentenced
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:17
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No