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OSP Investigation Into Missing Evidence From Phillip Scott Cannon Homicide Case
The following is a news release from the Marion County District Attorney's Office
The Marion County District Attorney’s Office has completed a review of an Oregon State Police (OSP) Criminal Investigations Division investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and subsequent discovery of evidence associated with the 1998 Polk County homicide case, State v. Phillip Scott Cannon. A Polk County jury convicted Mr. Cannon of homicide in 2000.  He appealed and his conviction was affirmed in 2003.  Thereafter, Mr. Cannon filed a petition for post conviction relief.  Review of the OSP investigation does not suggest or support criminal conduct on the part of anyone associated with the investigation.
In October 2011, physical evidence from the case, which had been assumed lost or destroyed, was discovered in a little used closed storage cabinet in the Trial Division of the Oregon State Department of Justice. At the request of the Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, the Oregon State Police Criminal Investigations Division was asked to investigate the disappearance and subsequent discovery of the evidence.
The OSP investigation was extensive, including interviews with more than 50 individuals during a three month period that generated hundreds of pages of reports. Being the appropriate jurisdiction, the Oregon Attorney General requested the Marion County District Attorney’s Office review the completed investigation to determine whether the mishandling of evidence was the result of criminal conduct.
The OSP investigation revealed that in connection with the post conviction case, at some point in 2005 the Polk County District Attorney sent a number of boxes containing original files and all trial exhibits to the Oregon Attorney General Trial Division. This action was and is not standard protocol for appellate or post conviction cases. Partly due to the fact that the Polk County District Attorney did not have a system for recording and retaining that information, and also because the Department of Justice’s electronic case management system was not utilized in the Cannon case, it is believed this was done pursuant to an agreement between Mark Geiger, Mr. Cannon’s attorney, and Susan Gerber, the assistant attorney general assigned to the post conviction case.
In addition to the District Attorney’s boxes of original files, the Department of Justice also had boxed documents and information from a variety of other sources related to the Cannon case. The boxes remained at the Department of Justice until the post conviction case was resolved in 2009. During this period of time, Mr. Geiger viewed the contents of some of these boxes as part of his preparation of the post-conviction case.
The post conviction case was resolved in 2009 and the case was remanded to Polk County for a new trial.  At that time, a number of boxes were transported back to the Polk County District Attorney. Boxes containing evidence and the District Attorney’s original file were not among these, as they had somehow become stored in a different location within the Department of Justice. A search of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Justice and the Courts was not fruitful and it was ultimately thought that the evidence had been unintentionally lost or destroyed.
In October 2011, a Department of Justice Trial Division support staff employee was tasked with cleaning out a storage cabinet.  It was at this time that the evidence and exhibits were located, leading to all involved parties being notified of the discovery and, ultimately, the OSP investigation.