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Clifford Stevens

Other Oregon exonerations
On June 8, 1990, a Lane County, Oregon grand jury indicted 55-year-old Clifford Stevens on a charge of raping a 12-year-old girl whom he was driving to school as a favor for her family.

The indictment alleged that on March 5, 1990, Stevens, who was the family’s landlord and a friend of the family, raped the girl, who was developmentally disabled, on the way to a school for such students. The girl claimed that Stevens pulled the van to the side of the road, got out, and walked to the passenger side. She said he opened the door and after forcing her to touch his penis, inserted his penis inside her.

In December 1990, Stevens went to trial in Lane County Circuit Court and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury.

The girl testified that Stevens put his “privates” inside her “privates” while she was sitting on the passenger seat. She said the incident lasted for about five minutes and that Stevens had an erection.

She said that after Stevens dropped her off at school, she attended three classes in the morning and that she reported the incident to her physical therapist and to one of her teachers, identified as “Pattison.”

The girl’s parents testified that when she came home from school that day, she was agitated, said she had a headache, and wanted to rest for a few hours before dinner.

A physician testified for the prosecution that he examined the girl two days later and found no physical evidence of rape or trauma.

Stevens testified and denied having any sexual contact with the girl.

A criminalist testified for the defense that laboratory tests on the jeans and underwear the girl was wearing the day of the alleged offense revealed no evidence.

The defense lawyer also presented a visual demonstration of Stevens’s van to demonstrate that based on the height of the seat of the van, the girl’s description of what happened could not have occurred.

On December 5, 1990, the trial judge found Stevens guilty of the lesser included offense of sexual abuse in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor. Stevens was sentenced to six months in jail. He was released after serving 143 days.

The Oregon Court Appeals affirmed the conviction in 1992.

Stevens sought post-conviction relief, asserting that his trial defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense. Stevens claimed his attorney had failed to pursue witnesses who might have impeached the girl’s testimony and also failed to get a medical expert to testify that Stevens was impotent at the time of the attack.

At a hearing on the petition, Stevens’s trial defense attorney testified that he had not interviewed any of the school staff or the girl’s classmates.

Two teachers and a teacher’s assistant who had conducted the girl’s classes on the day of the alleged rape testified at the hearing. Pattison testified that the girl had not reported the incident to him as she had claimed at the trial. Pattison said she was in his class with about 10 other learning disabled students. He said that he and another teacher and a teacher’s assistant were there. He said the girl behaved normally on that day.

The other teacher who was with Pattison supervised the girl on that day and testified that the girl generally confided in her about her home life, but she did not report the rape. The teacher’s assistant testified that the girl behaved normally that day and said nothing about the incident.

Four of the girl’s classmates testified as well. Each related what the girl had told them—and all the accounts were different. One said the girl said Stevens “hurt” her at Stevens’s home and that her mother was going to sue Stevens for “a lot of money.” Another student testified that the girl said Stevens had raped her and scraped her with a “tool” and that she was going to sue Stevens for money. A third student said that on the day after the alleged rape, the girl said that Stevens had attacked her at his home. And the fourth student said the girl told her that two years earlier a masked man, who possibly was Stevens, had grabbed her, taken her into her house, and raped her.

Stevens testified that he told his defense attorney prior to the trial that he was incapable of committing the rape because he had been impotent for several years. The defense presented an affidavit from a urologist, who had examined Stevens. In the affidavit, the urologist said that Stevens had been impotent for many years.

The motion for a new trial was denied. The denial was upheld in 1994 by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The defense appealed. In September 1995, the Oregon Supreme Court vacated Stevens’s conviction. Noting that the case turned on the credibility of the girl and Stevens, the court faulted Stevens’s trial defense attorney for not interviewing the girl’s teachers or fellow students. Not only did their testimony impeach the girl’s account, but it also would have shown that she mentioned “repeatedly that she wanted to sue [Stevens], giving her a possible motive to accuse petitioner falsely.”

“We conclude that trial counsel…failed to exercise reasonable skill and judgment,” the court said.

On December 22, 1995, the prosecution dismissed the case. Stevens died in 2006.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/24/2023
Last Updated: 2/24/2023
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1990
Sentence:6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:55
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No