In November 1998, three people were found shot and killed in a mobile home in Polk County, Oregon. Two eyewitnesses told police they saw Phillip Cannon near the property at the time of the killing, and that he told them not to go inside the home. Another witness told police she saw Cannon on the property earlier that day for a plumbing job. Cannon claimed to have been at the property earlier, and had warned the two men not to go inside after he saw one of the trailer’s occupants arguing with a Hispanic man. Police never recovered a murder weapon, but the bullets used in the murder were compared to bullets found in Cannon’s home. A metallurgic analysis of the bullets performed by an FBI expert determined that the bullets were identical. On February 28, 2000, a jury found Cannon guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to three life sentences without parole.
In August 2009, a Polk County Circuit Court judge vacated Cannon’s conviction after the bullet analysis technique used to compare the bullets was discredited as worthless junk science. The prosecution dropped the charges and Cannon was released in December 2009. Cannon filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages. The lawsuit was dismissed as being filed too late, but in March 2014 the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit.
- Stephanie Denzel