Oregon Governor Commutes All 17 Death Sentences to Life in Prison without Possibility of Parole

Governor Kate Brown – photo via Twitter

By The Vanguard Staff

SALEM, OR – Republican lawmakers here attacked outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown last week when she announced she was commuting the death sentences of all 17 people awaiting execution—their sentences will now be changed to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Brown, a Democrat with less than a month remaining in office, said she was using her executive clemency powers to commute the sentences.

“I have long believed that 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 said in a statement.

Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, Republican minority House leader, said in a statement, “Gov. Brown has once again taken executive action with zero input from Oregonians and the Legislature,” accusing Gov. Brown of “a lack of responsible judgment.” 

The lawmaker added, “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.”

However, Brown said victims experience “pain and uncertainty” as they wait for decades while individuals sit on death row, adding, “My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases.”

At Brown’s first news conference after becoming governor in 2015, she announced she would continue the death penalty moratorium imposed by her predecessor, former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Oregon, like many other states, is moving away from the death penalty. It hasn’t executed anyone since 1977.

In California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on executions in 2019 and shut down the state’s execution chamber at San Quentin. A year ago, he moved to dismantle America’s largest death row by moving all condemned inmates to other prisons within two years.

Brown, during the coronavirus pandemic, granted clemency to nearly 1,000 people convicted of crimes, according to the Associated Press.

Two district attorneys, along with family members of crime victims, sued the governor and other state officials to stop the clemency actions, said the AP. But the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in August that she acted within her authority.

The AP wrote that prosecutors heavy criticized Brown’s decision to allow 73 people convicted of murder, assault, rape and manslaughter when they were 18 or younger to apply for early release.

“This commutation is not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row,” Brown said. “Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral. It is an irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction.”

The Oregon Department of Corrections several years ago said it was closing its death row and sent those inmates to other special housing units or general population units at the state penitentiary in Salem and other state prisons.

Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty by popular vote in 1978, 14 years after they abolished it. The Oregon Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1981 and Oregon voters reinstated it in 1984, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for