PORTLAND, Ore. — An appeals court ruled Wednesday that the state parole board incorrectly rescinded the release of an Oregon logger who beat a police officer to death with his fists and firewood nearly a quarter-century ago.

The Oregon Court of Appeals also directed the parole board to reinstate the release date of Sidney Dean Porter, 56, who had been set to be freed in June 2013 before objections from then-Gov. John Kitzhaber and law enforcement officers led the board to reverse itself.

Kristina Edmunson, a spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said the state is reviewing the court decision and has yet to decide whether to petition the Oregon Supreme Court for review.

If the state declines to challenge the ruling, Porter could be released within a few months, said Andy Simrin, his attorney.

In its ruling written by Judge Joel Devore, a Kitzhaber appointee, the appeals court said the parole board did not have a valid reason to rescind the release.

Once a date is set, the law says the board can only postpone it if the prisoner engages in serious misconduct, has an inadequate release plan or receives a psychological diagnosis that concludes he’s a danger to the community.

The board nixed Porter’s parole just days before his release date and then conducted a new exit interview in September 2013. It found that Porter “suffers from a present severe emotional disturbance such as to constitute a danger to the health or safety of the community.”

The Appeals Court said such a finding had to occur before the June 2013 release date.

“After that release date had passed, it does not suffice to later find a reason to have postponed his release,” the opinion states.

Simrin said in a phone interview Wednesday that public outcry is not a valid reason for keeping his client in prison.

“The board simply responded to letters from various concerned citizens, most of whom were law enforcement officers and one of whom was the governor of Oregon, all asking them to reconsider what they had done,” he said.

Authorities say Porter, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225-pounds, was drunk when he killed Frank Ward in 1992 after the John Day police officer responded to a domestic violence call.

The officer had a wife, daughter and twin 2-year-old sons.


Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub