Progressive Oregon gov commutes all death sentences ‘to life without parole’

Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown (D-Ore.) has made one more move putting the progressive agenda ahead of the will of the people before her term ends, commuting the sentences of all death row inmates admittedly “not based on any rehabilitative efforts.”

With her administration coming to an end because of term limits, Brown has engaged in the routine practice of departing executives to right certain perceived wrongs. On Tuesday, that meant issuing a commutation for each of the 17 named death row inmates, changing their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Justice is not advanced by taking a life, and the state should not be in the business of executing people–even if a terrible crime placed them in prison,” Brown wrote on Twitter. “Today I am commuting all death sentences in Oregon to life without parole, so we no longer have anyone facing execution here.”

In her official statement, the governor went on to say, “Unlike previous commutations I’ve granted to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation, this commutation is not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row. Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral.”

Oregon voters have twice reinstated the death penalty after it was abolished or ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court with the most recent occurrence taking place in 1984. However, Brown’s predecessor, former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), had issued a moratorium on executions which she had extended.

Speaking out in opposition to the move, Oregon House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson issued a statement that read, “Governor Brown has once again taken executive action with zero input from Oregonians and the legislature. Oregon has not executed an individual since 1997 and has only executed two criminals since voters adopted the death penalty in 1984. Her decisions do not consider the impact the victims and families will suffer in the months and years to come. Democrats have consistently chosen criminals over victims.”

Meanwhile, Brown claimed to be addressing those concerns as her own statement continued, “I also recognize the pain and uncertainty victims experience as they wait for decades while individuals sit on death row — especially in states with moratoriums on executions — without resolution. My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases.”

In addition to commuting the sentences, the governor issued a subsequent order for the Department of Correction (DOC) to “immediately close and take actions toward dismantling the execution chamber and removing any equipment in the chamber, so it can no longer be used for state-sponsored executions.”

Some have noted a discrepancy in the list provided by Brown and the current list provided by the DOC which shows 21 names rather than the mere 17. No statement had been issued to reconcile those lists, nor was one issued to alleviate concerns of the formerly death row inmates being moved to the prison system’s general population.

This is especially concerning as several of the inmates who had been sentenced to the death penalty had not only been found guilty of committing heinous acts prior to their incarceration, but they had also been found guilty of killing fellow prisoners.

The commutations officially went into effect Wednesday.


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Kevin Haggerty


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