Potential law change looms in murder case involving Grass Valley woman | TheUnion.com

Potential law change looms in murder case involving Grass Valley woman

Justin Lee Graham-Yaeger

A possible change in Oregon law would affect the man accused of a Grass Valley woman’s death, removing the possibility of the death penalty as a punishment.

Justin Lee Graham-Yaeger, 33, faces charges of aggravated murder, murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the death of Sierra Clemens, 23, in Medford, Oregon. Arrested May 3, Graham-Yaeger appeared Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court and was given a copy of his indictment. He’s next scheduled for court on June 12.

If convicted of aggravated murder, Graham-Yaeger would have a jury determine his sentence — death, life in prison without parole or life with a chance of parole after 30 years, said Allan Smith, senior deputy district attorney with the Jackson County, Oregon, District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors currently aren’t seeking the death penalty, Smith added.

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“That’s a decision we’ll make down the road,” the prosecutor said.

A murder conviction brings a life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 25 years, Smith said.

Legislation moving through the Oregon Legislature, Senate Bill 1013, would alter aggravated murder if passed.

Currently someone can face an aggravated murder charge if they meet one of several criteria. In Graham-Yaeger’s case, it’s the robbery charge.

The bill would significantly limit the criteria for aggravated murder, and Graham-Yaeger no longer would be eligible, Smith said.

“If this goes through, he would not be eligible for aggravated murder or the death penalty,” he added.

The bill also would create new charges: first- and second-degree murder. Someone convicted of first-degree murder would receive a life sentence with the chance of parole after 30 years. A second-degree murder conviction also would warrant a life sentence, but with the chance of parole after 25 years, Smith said.

The bill hasn’t yet reached a vote of the Oregon state Senate, records show.

According to reports, officers found Clemens’ body after responding May 3 to a disturbance at a Medford motel. Moments later they found Graham-Yaeger hiding in a Dumpster. A police dog bit Graham-Yaeger during his arrest. He was treated at a hospital before being booked into jail.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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