Death Penalty: What should Oregon do?

Chip Shields

NJ replaces death penalty with true life. Obama credited with reforming Illinois death penalty. Dallas paper says state legal costs would drop if executions were banned. What should Oregon do?

In the wake of International Human Rights day on December 10, there has been much activity around the death penalty in America. Amnesty International has long considered the death penalty a human rights abuse. Barack Obama has been getting props for reforming the death penalty in Illinois. Yesterday the New Jersey Senate joined the House in passing a bill that would replace the death penalty with true life without any possibility of parole. The international community cheered.

And today, the Dallas Morning News reports that state legal costs would drop if executions were banned, which I found to be true when I chaired the Public Safety Subcommittee of Ways and Means last legislative session. The Dallas Morning News article is summarized by criminal justice journalist Ted Gest:

More than at any time over the past 30 years, the future of capital punishment is in limbo, says the Associated Press. The Supreme Court will hear arguments soon in a momentous lethal injection case. While it's widely expected that executions will resume in some form afterwards, the moment gives Americans a chance to contemplate what would change if they stopped for good. States with many death-penalty cases would save millions of dollars now spent on legal costs in long-running appeals. Other savings would result in some states that spend far more per inmate for death row facilities than other maximum-security inmates.

Abroad, notably in Europe and Canada, America's image would improve in countries that abolished capital punishment decades ago and wonder why America remains one of only a handful of prosperous democracies that continue with executions. In the American public, reaction would be deeply divided. Advocates on both sides of the debate say it's likely the high court will offer some pathway for states to resume executions. There have been 1,099 executions nationwide since executions resumed in the 1970s after a court-ordered halt, with a peak of 98 in 1999. The numbers have ebbed in recent years - there have been 42 this year - while more than 3,300 inmates populate death rows. The biggest savings would come from reduced legal costs. Because of drawn-out appeals, a typical death penalty case can cost from $1 million to $3 million, well above the typical cost of a lengthy life imprisonment. On average, it costs roughly $25,000 to house an inmate for a year, though maximum-security confinement can be more expensive.

So what do you think Oregon should do about its death penalty? Keep it? Replace it with true life without parole? Execute people more often? What do you think?

Comments

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Chip Shields:

    .....passing a bill that would replace the death penalty with true life without any possibility of parole.

    Bob T:

    But that's not a new idea! One key reason why the death penalty is still widely supported here is because people know of too many examples of a convicted murderer released from prison after a relatively short prison term, and killing again.

    We'll know the next try is working when murderers die in prison of old age.

    Bob Tiernan

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)
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    It wasn't too long ago that the state of California executed Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder of The Crips gang.

    Williams had spent most of my lifetime sitting on death row and working out, to the point where they had a hard time finding his vein to give him a lethal injection.

    I think that for as long as it takes to executive somebody now, we might as well do away with capital punishment. It doesn't serve as a deterrant to crime when people are executed in the middle of the night, away from the public eye, after spending 20 years appealing their convictions.

  • andy (unverified)
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    Maybe instead of the death penelty we could just sentence to riding the eastside Max. Eventually some gangbangers would kill them with baseball bats and that would solve the issue without spending any money.

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    I think it's a moral imperative, but that's just me.

  • naschkatze (unverified)
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    Well, a big thanks for addressing the issue, Blue Oregon. I still would like to know the names of any state legislators who would be willing to go for it. So if anyone on the thread knows who to get in touch with, I'd appreciate the information.

    It's not just you, torridjoe. It is a moral imperative.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    We have to do away with capital punishment because it does not, truly, protect all the innocent. Even one person executed for crimes they are later to be found not guilty of is one too many. True life protects the innocent by giving innocent people their due. Finding out they are innocent after the fact is rude and counter productive.

    Besides - an eye for an eye only leaves one eye, not two.

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    State murder is wrong. Abolish it.

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    I still would like to know the names of any state legislators who would be willing to go for it. So if anyone on the thread knows who to get in touch with, I'd appreciate the information.

    Um, how about State Representative Chip Shields? I hear he has some thoughts on the issue. :)

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    A couple thoughts State execution spreads the responsibility across the entire population, it is exactly equal to the button pusher, many miss that they have commited this killing.

    There is no reprieve for the innocent after exectution, omniscience is sorely missing in humanity.

    Slaughtering a helpless human being is a moral/ethical improvement on what?

    I would guess that true life is more a deterrence than death.

  • Michael Wilson (unverified)
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    I have been against the death penalty for years, but have had a recent change of heart. That was brought about by this war. Personally I think we should keep it around to be used on politians and make that public hanging.

    And I am serious, Extremely so.

    MW

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    I'll support the death penalty the day I know I can trust the government to be both competent and honest, always.

    It blows my mind that the same people who trust the government with the power to decide which of its citizens may be KILLED are also arguing that the government isn't capable of managing schools and health care.

  • djk (unverified)
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    I'm always astonished by the "tort reform" right-wingers who insist judges and juries can't be trusted to measure the damages of someone who was injured by something like medical malpractice, but have complete, blind faith in the same judges and juries to accurately implement the death penalty.

    The justice system is run by people. The system is too imperfect and the people who run it too imperfect to achieve anywhere close to 100% accuracy. Cops, prosecutors, judges and juries are all prone to mistakes. Those mistakes should not have lethal consequences.

    Life imprisonment without possibility of parole gets you to the same place as the death penalty. The convicted defendant will remain in prison until he dies. And if later evidence exonerates him, well, he can be compensated financially for his lost years. That's not an option if he got killed before the state finds out he was innocent.

  • CBP (unverified)
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    When the day comes that murderers will actually take responsibility for their actions and not let their lawyers convince them that because mommy and daddy didn't love them enough they shouldnt be punished for their deed then i would support true life in prison with the stipulation that we allow (with strict controls) industry to enter the prison system and allow these inmates the ability to earn their keep to take the burden off of the taxpayers.

    Until then - Let'em fry

  • TomCat (unverified)
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    If Oregon is a truly progressive state, let's swhow it by finally acknowlwdging that state-sponsored murder is a barbaric way to say, "Don't kill." True life is the answer.

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    I have always felt people that are against the death penalty deserve to have someone they love killed for no other reason but for them to be placed in the shoes of someone that has lost a loved one.

    History has proven that our justice system is not perfect. that it is unfair and that if you have enough money, you stand a good chance of avoiding justice. This does not mean we should allow people that take life in America the opportunity to live free.

    We should set a 10 year time table to put someone to death after they have been condemned. If they are not put to death by then their sentence should be commuted to life in prison with out the possibility of parole.

    Lets save the majority of the natural life sentences for people that rape and sexually abuse our women and children. We have more of those in Northeast Portland than we have killers.

    Fred

  • David (unverified)
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    I Supported the Death Penalty The last time Because a bunch of liberal Scum Bags Kept Letting that Murdering Trash Back out to do it again. I was under no misconception that Oregon would actually carry out a Death sentence.I just want The Murdering Baby Raping Scum incarcerated for the last Gasp.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 3:47:53 AM I have always felt people that are against the death penalty deserve to have someone they love killed for no other reason but for them to be placed in the shoes of someone that has lost a loved one.

    I'm sure these folks would disagree.

    As a State sanctioned murderer, do I get a pass? BOHICA RVN 68-69

  • djk (unverified)
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    I have always felt people that are against the death penalty deserve to have someone they love killed for no other reason but for them to be placed in the shoes of someone that has lost a loved one.

    I have always felt people who are for the death penalty should be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for someone else's crime. The point here isn't about revenge, it's about trusting the lives of INNOCENT, WRONGLY-CONVICTED people to a system that usually works, but periodically screws up in big way.

    It's really easy to just shrug and say a few innocent people killed here and there doesn't matter, as long as you can get revenge by proxy. Really easy unless YOU are the innocent person on trial for your life.

    Until such time as we can develop a system that is 100% error-free, we shouldn't tolerate the risk of a lethal mistake.

  • Mark Cogan (unverified)
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    I have practiced law for 25 years. The more I know about how our justice system operates, the less confidence I have that the Death Penalty can ever be instituted in a fair and appropriate manner.

    The outcome of a criminal case depends largely on things that have utterly nothing to do with innocence or guilt.

    Who is the prosecutor? Who is the judge? Who is the investigating detective? Who is the defense attorney? What decisions are made by these individuals, and the accused, as the matter proceeds through the legal system? Who ends up on the jury? These issues determine the fate of a person accused of capital murder, far more than the intrinsic guilt of the defendant.

    In our supposedly advanced society, there have been hundreds of people who have been convicted of capital murder and other very serious crimes, who later have been completely exonerated.

    Until our justice system reaches a state of perfection, when we have confidence that no one will be executed who does not truly deserve that fate, it is unconscionable for us to keep the Death Penalty in effect.

    Internationally, the United States is in the company of such tragically flawed States such as China and Iran in its manintenance of the Death Penalty. We need to join the civilized world, and bring an end to this fundamentally flawed practice.

  • Jennifer Zammetti (unverified)
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    I am a criminal defense paralegal and have been for several years. The funny thing is I always wanted to be a prsecutor so I could "put the bad guys away"...but through my education and in my real life work experience I have seen that the system has holes - holes that can result in the innocent being convicted of a crime.

    I have always been against the death penalty for personal reasons, but my research regarding all those persons freed from death row based on later exoneration (or, sadly those who were put to death only to be later determined innocent) has reinforced that opinion. And don't get me started on the cost factor!

    Oregon should join NJ in abolishing the death penalty. In its place we could require life without parole.

    I work for the defense because of those many "things that have utterly nothing to do with innocence or guilt." Someone has to fight for those accused because those things mentioned by Mark C (above) are real factors in the determination of guilt. Those are the reasons why I chose this career.

    Oregonians simply cannot be assured an innocent will not be put to death - absent that assurance, we should not risk the life of a person where the determinate factor of guilt may not actually be a person's guilt, but a combination of factors such as the judge, the prosecutor and the investigator.

    Humans make mistakes...For me, it comes down to the answer to this question: Am I secure enough in our system that I am willing to place my life in others' hands? What if you were charged with a capital murder you know you did not commit - do YOU trust the system to reveal your innocence? I think we should all consider this very seriously.

  • Jennifer Zammetti (unverified)
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    Just one more comment regarding this statement: Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 3:47:53 AM I have always felt people that are against the death penalty deserve to have someone they love killed for no other reason but for them to be placed in the shoes of someone that has lost a loved one.

    My uncle was murdered several years ago in a violent drug-crazed act of rage. He was beaten in the head with the claw end of a hammer until he died. Oh and by the way, he was alseep when he was attacked and my sister, my niece and my nephew were in the next room. So, does my opinion count more because of that?

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    Jennifer,

    What your experience means is you have an understanding of the issue that is as equal as people that have had someone close to them killed and want the death penalty. Most people that are against the death penalty lack empathy for the victims that are left behind. It is clear you are not one of them.

    Fred

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    Jennifer,

    What is the percentage of innocent people put to death that have later been proven to have been innocent?

    How many people in Law Enforcment and the Legal system have been heald accountable for putting someone to death that was later proven innocent?

    Fred

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    Fred Stewart,

    Let me get this straight: Opposing the death penalty is such a bad crime that it deserves to be punished by having a family member killed?

    Death sentences for opinions. How about we write that one into law ... Clearly you're a man to the listened to.

    Going back to the ancient Greeks -- Aeschylus in The Eumenides one of the key justifications of criminal courts has been to separate justice from revenge.

    Are there limits to how much the desires of victims or victims' survivors should influence sentencing?

    What if they think a simple death sentence isn't enough, that the convicted murderer should suffer a painful and protracted death? I.e. they want cruel and unusual punishment for cruel and unusual crimes. Should we amend the constitution to accommodate such desires for revenge?

    Why not just take sentencing away from juries or judges altogether, and give it victims and/or their families? Why not allow them to carry out sentences themselves, if they wish?

    Funny how centuries upon centuries of law have got this one wrong. There really couldn't be any good reason, could there?

    <hr/>

    Death penalty advocates generally don't seem too fussed when a victim's family opposes a death sentence and execution but the state carries it out anyway. Why don't those victim's voices count too? Where do you personally stand on that one? (This matters for my family where we have a shared agreement to oppose the death penalty if the situation should arise, heaven forfend.)

  • admiralnaismith (unverified)
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    Most people that are against the death penalty lack empathy for the victims that are left behind.

    As opposed to, I guess, people who are for the death penalty and wish the murder of loved ones on any who disagree. I'm so glad Fred is here to teach true empathy to the rest of us heartless bastards.

  • Lee Berger (unverified)
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    Thanks Chip, for starting this discussion.

    Here's hoping Oregon can follow New Jersey and Illinois' lead and abolish the death penalty here.

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    Happy I was able to help you admiralnaismith. While you pass out milk and cookies to cold blooded killers, baby killers, and rapist. I will just think of more ways soceity can protect itself from those that encumber the rights of others to that level......murder. Oh, and pardon me for carring about those I love enough to be completely comfortable with seeking the demise of those that want to do them lethal harm.

    Fred

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    djk,

    Can you guarantee a murder...a rapist and a murder that is sentence to life in prison with out parole will never be able to walk in free society again?

    I am not sure what it is now, but I remember in 1993 that the man that has been in an Oregon prison the longest for murder had been there for only 27 years. What is funny about that was how many murders, rapist and baby killers we had paroled over the previous 20 years. At one time in Oregon it seemed murder was no big deal. Time have changed and I feel people in Oregon hold a greater value on life today than maybe we did back in the 80's and early 90's. But society is always in a state of change and time dims the tragedy of many bad acts. Allowing some killers an opportunity to breath with out fighting for their right to do so could give them an advantage that might one day allow them to walk in free society again.

    I think there is a solution here. One that will allow enough time for someone to prove they were wrongly convicted and for those that can't to be put to death. I am also wondering if we as a society should demand that our law enforcement personal and prosecutors be held accountable when they are found to have made a mistake that caused the death of an innocent person. I am not as blood thirsty as it may seem, but I am not a push over either. There are bad people in this world and many of those people should be put out in a manner in which free society should never be bothered by them again. What I am looking for her is certainty.

    Fred

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    Chris,

    Love it when old dog liberals try to word smith a statement to death. Gives me a belly laugh like listening to old Richard Pryor records.

    I am not wishing death on anyone that disagrees with me. No more than I am hoping my daughter has a child that talks back to her or shaves her eyebrows when she is asleep one day. I was addressing that most people that are against the death penalty are ignorant of what it feels like to have someone close to them...someone vital to them KILLED.

    I have had friends that were committed against the death penalty until a loved one of theirs was killed. To be fair, I have had this happen more than once. I am sure there are those that do not change their minds once something like this touches their lives, but from my experience and the experience of others I know.....most become open to the death penalty once someone they love is murdered.

    I think for them the issue is certainty. Certainty the person or persons that have committed murder will not be given a chance for redemption. Another chance at living in free society. Let’s face it if we were able to guarantee a murder would never walk in free society again, the support for the death penalty will drop....how much I can not say, but it would drop.

    So Chris if you are worried I want someone close to you murders.....don't worry I don't. However, if you or someone close to you is murdered. I will be at the front of the line demanding that person gets the needle because to me, there is no excuse for murder. Even when the people that are murdered disagree with me.....LOL

    Fred

  • Jesse Merrithew (unverified)
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    Abolish it.

    First, to respond to those who think true life is something other than true life: You are simply wrong. If a person is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (which is currently one of the options for someone found guilty of aggravated murder), he will die in prison. No ifs or buts about it. The practice of parole cutting off significant portions of a person's sentence is a relic of the past in Oregon, as it is in most of the rest of the country.

    Second, no one doubts that the victims of violent crimes go through serious, life-altering anguish. Some of these people react by wanting to take the life of the offender. I don't blame them for feeling that way. However, that is not the issue. The question is whether we, as the state and citizens of Oregon, should be in the business of acting out that person's fantasies of vengence. I do not believe that we should. The state should always punish with a purpose. The death penalty serves no purpose.

    Third, to the advocates a swifter death penalty--it is not an option. The death penalty takes a long time to impose because the U.S. constitution requires it. If you favor the death penalty, you also must favor spending all the money it takes to impose it, and all the time it takes to impose. Keep in mind also the effect that this has on the victim's loved ones and family. If they actually want to see the offender executed, they must wait for at least 12-15 years. That is a long time to wait to get any closure.

    For the record, I too have lost a loved one to murder, so I guess Mr. Stewart is required to consider my views legitimate as well.

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    Jesse Merrithew,

    I think you have hit on the heart of the matter....The Certainly that a person that commits murder will never again walk in free society. In the end, I feel that is what society really wants. I also feel that is ultimately what society deserves as to me how we treat those that do not respect life is a reflection of how much value society places on life itself.

    Can you tell me what has changed in Oregon legally over the last 14 to 15 years that has resulted in this certainty?

    You are right, I do consider your opinion on this issue more food for thought than someone that is offering a hypothetical based opinion.

    Fred

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    Fred, you and I both know that innocent people have been executed by the state. That fact alone makes the death penalty a immoral act. What about the emotional distress about the friends and family of an innocent person wrongly accused, convicted and murdered by the state? The emotional misdirection about the grieving families (while real) is a canard about the actual moral and ethical implications of the death penalty.

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    I am completely opposed to the death penalty, a position remains firm despite the fact that it is challenged on a regular basis by those who abuse children, who murder, rape, torture, or heck, serve currently as President of the United States.

    I'm opposed to it for the same reason that I will never spank my children -- I cannot in good conscience tell them that nobody is ever allowed to hit them ever, if there is an exception that says, "except Mommy when she's pissed."

    If we are opposed to murder as a society, it makes no sense to me to actually murder anyone, no matter if they are innocent of a crime or not. I don't think being guilty of a crime justifies it -- there's just no consistency with what we hope to be as a society -- opposed to murder.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Chip, and thanks so much for your past and future work on the issue.

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    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 3:47:53 AM I have always felt people that are against the death penalty deserve to have someone they love killed for no other reason but for them to be placed in the shoes of someone that has lost a loved one.

    I have always felt that people who are for the death penalty deserve to have some they love killed for no reason other but for them to be in the shoes of someone that has been falsely arrested by racist cops, and wrongly convicted for a crime they didn't commit and were killed by the state for it.

    Seems to me you are willing to forget that the cops and the criminal justice system are not above such things in the past, incapable of it in the present or would never do it in the future.

    How many men (predominately minorities I might add) have been on death row and recently exonerated by DNA evidence, who otherwise would have been killed?

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    lestatdelc,

    Have some questions for you.

    How many black people has Oregon put to death? When was the last time Oregon put a black person to death? How many cops have been convicted of killing anyone? Has a racist cop ever been convicted of killing a black person in Oregon?

    We are talking about Oregon here, not the other 49 states. Comparing the rest of the country to Oregon is like comparing the Zapp Band to Crosby, Stills and Nash.

    People that hold strong opinions on issues they know little or nothing about deserve to be tested and tested harshly. There was a time in Oregon killers suffered little for the lives they took. They are black, white, brown, yellow and sometimes pink.

    What would you do if young black men started killing racist cops simply because they were protecting themselves from the oppression and physical harm these rouge law enforcement...people inflict? In a civilized society is it right for black people to kill racist people on site or should we allow the courts to decide when a person has committed so much harm that they should lose their life?

    I grew up with a person that was at one time sentence to death. Knew his family well. Can not tell you how many fights I had with this guy and his brother while growing up A couple of them would have been to the death….his or mine had good neighbors not broken the fights up. I was just a kid then, but you know I knew as well as everyone else in the neighborhood. These guys just loved the idea of hurting people for the sake of hurting people. When you have time, look up this guys case and see what he did that caused him to be taken out of society. Maybe after you are done you can go over and serve him some milk and cookies and protect him from people like me….LOL

    Fred

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    lestatdelc,

    I do feel procecutors have in some cases abused their power. Just like the DA in the Duke Lacross team case abused his power. The issue here for me is what is the risk to a DA that unjestly put someone to death? No system is perfect but we have done little to make DA's and Law Enforcment officers worry about making a mistake when someones life is at risk. For them historicly it has been an opps. An honest mistake was made. Well in my opinion many of these mistakes could have been avoided...should have been avoided and the fact they were not means justice is due the court and society as both has been harmed.

    Fred

    P.S. have you ever had to fight for your life? I mean really fight for it. Knowing that if you lost the fight, you would be worm food. Have you ever had to face someone that wanted to take your life and there was nothing you could do but defend yourself?

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    P.S. have you ever had to fight for your life? I mean really fight for it. Knowing that if you lost the fight, you would be worm food. Have you ever had to face someone that wanted to take your life and there was nothing you could do but defend yourself?

    Yes.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    I am not a supporter of the Death Penalty. I would support an iron clad life w/out parole alternative. Earlier this year I served on a murder case and we were able to agree on the guilt of the charged party. The deliberations were made easier for me because the prosecution was seeking life w/out parole.

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    Just to point out a distinction that matters: Not everyone convicted of murder even now gets the death penalty, or is even eligible for the death penalty.

    For sentences for degrees of murder not eligible for the death penalty, there usually are parole provisions. The people you are citing Fred who walked eventually (and who continue to do so) were not sentenced to life without parole / "true life".

    If too many murderers (or other crimes life with possible parole sentences) are getting out too soon in your view, that's a different argument to have about sentencing for those crimes that don't get death penalties anyway.

    I don't think anything purporting to be "true life" / "life without parole" has existed in Oregon for a long time if ever, though that could easily be wrong & I'd be happy to be corrected if so.

    Clarifying that "true life" would be something new in Oregon seems from this discussion possibly to be important for those who advocate abolition on a "true life" basis.

    If a "true life" alternative started to look politically viable, it would presumably raise questions about which crimes should be subject to it -- just substitute it for where it says "death" now? Or expand or narrow that range?

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    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 4:22:50 PM How many black people has Oregon put to death? Since 1976 Oregon has only executed 2 people, both white. Nationally 34% of all people executed since 1976 have been black, 7% hispanic, 57% white and 2% are of other racial/ethnic background. Are you suggesting that a vastly disproportionate number of black people commit capital crimes and deserve to be put to death or do you think that perhaps there is indication of racial bias in applying the death penalty?
    When was the last time Oregon put a black person to death?
    I don't know the answer to that as many executions prior to 1976 in Oregon are not listed by race of the executed in the lists i Have gone over in the past.
    How many cops have been convicted of killing anyone?
    I would not know, nor is it relevant to the discussion.
    Has a racist cop ever been convicted of killing a black person in Oregon?
    Not that I am aware of. You're point?
    We are talking about Oregon here, not the other 49 states.
    While the question is about what Oregon should do about the death penalty, what occurs nationally about the death penalty is relevant.
    Comparing the rest of the country to Oregon is like comparing the Zapp Band to Crosby, Stills and Nash.
    Wrong. When discussing the death penalty the history of it, even as it is applied or misapplied in other states is relevant.
    What would you do if young black men started killing racist cops simply because they were protecting themselves from the oppression and physical harm these rouge law enforcement...people inflict?
    They should be charged with such crimes and be held to account for them. However I do not believe having state sanctioned execution in place should cost the life of an innocent person in the zeal to exact revenge against the guilty. Which is why I oppose the death penalty. I refuse to accept making it legal for the state to execute people until such time as you can guarantee that the is absolutely zero possibility of ever executing an innocent person.
    In a civilized society is it right for black people to kill racist people on site
    Of course not. No such pass should be given to people taking the law into their own hands regardless of race.
    ...or should we allow the courts to decide when a person has committed so much harm that they should lose their life?

    Courts are not infallible and hence the courts should not have the power to execute. So your question is a false dichotomy. We should allow the courts to decide if a person has committed a crime that they are removed from possibly harming society further by life without parole. The rest of your post is meaningless blather Fred. Nobody is advocating anyone milk and cookies so spare us all such drivel please. All that said, I am not opposed to having execution available for those convicted of life in prison without parole who are willing to wave their rights and request to be put to death.

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    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 4:35:15 PM The issue here for me is what is the risk to a DA that unjestly put someone to death?
    For me the issue is if we are to legally complicate through killing an innocent person because of the failings of our system to only convict the guilty and never the innocent. You willing to bet to your life on it Fred, a loved one who is wrongly accused and convicted? Granted the chances of that are extremely remote, same for me, but it is not zero for anyone.
    No system is perfect...
    Which is why the death penalty must be off the table as an option.
    ...but we have done little to make DA's and Law Enforcment officers worry about making a mistake when someones life is at risk.
    How do you purpose to do that?
    P.S. have you ever had to fight for your life? I mean really fight for it. Knowing that if you lost the fight, you would be worm food. Have you ever had to face someone that wanted to take your life and there was nothing you could do but defend yourself?

    Totally irrelevant question. But to answer it, I have grabbed a guys arm holding a knife as he lunged at another guy in a nightclub back in Chicago 1989. Not that I thought he was trying to kill me directly. Why do you ask since it is entirely irrelevant?

  • Robert Harris (unverified)
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    Bob T, Fred and anyone else: Can you please give me six...no just ONE, example of someone being convicted of aggravated murder and being sentenced to true life without parole, who has been released by the state (for reasone other than overturning a conviction that is)

    FYI, in 1984 Oregon passed BM 7 which reinstituted the death penalty and provided for true life without parole. Please read ORS 13.115 (I think thats it). Since that date, I challenge ANYONE to name a single person sentenced to true life who has been released from Oregon Prison.

    True life without parole works at removing people from prison. I would admit that there is always a danger that someone in prison for life may assault and murder other inmates. That seems it could be easily solved by keeping true lifers in segregation.

    Maybe if we renamed the true life option the "death penalty on the insstallment plan", or the "living death penalty", or the "slow death penalty", that would satisfy people.

    For pro death penalty people, two questins...how many innocent people are you willing to execute to keep the death penatly, and do you beleive government is perfect.

  • Jesse Merrithew (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I don't know the subsection numbers off hand, but ORS 163.150, which sets out the penalties available for aggravated murder (the only crime which makes a person eligible for the death penalty in Oregon) gives the sentencing jury three options: a) death, b) life without the possibility of parole, or c) life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. So yes, Chris, true life exists as a possibility in Oregon and has since at least 1984. In fact, I would wager a guess that it is probably the most common penalty imposed for aggravated murder. I don't believe there is a true life option for a "simple" (for lack of a better word) murder, but I could be wrong. There is, however, a mandatory minimum 20 year sentence (BM 11), so the defendant would not be eligible for parole prior to those 20 years.

    Bottom line: if you want a true life possibility instead of a death penalty, it is not a pipe dream, it's really quite simple. It's not even groundbreaking, it already exists in this state.

  • (Show?)

    Robert,

    I can not remember all of their names. There were quite a few before the mid 90's and Measure 11 and a few other changes. I have not come across any since measure 11. One thing you could do. Attend a Crime Victims United meeting or Parents of murdered children and you will find a few old stories.

    Like I said earlier, things have changed in Oregon. The question is how long will Oregon respect the value of life and can we make sure natural life the way it is today is natural life 50 years from now....at least. Compassionate and sincere law makers will spend some time looking at the history on this issue. Not just what we have in front of us today.

    Nice word smithing though. Love how the milk and cookie people ignore the minerals of the argument as to why we need clarity and finality in regards as to how we treat people that commit murder. We have natural life today. Can we make sure we have natural life tomorrow? We did not have natural life 30 years ago.

    Fred

  • (Show?)

    lestatdelc,

    If the guy with the knife had killed the person you protected. Would you have been against his life being taken by the state? Why should we even consider allowing someone that would take a life has the right to have "hope" they would ever mingle in free society again? If they can take life over something petty....then what is wrong with sending that person to the death chamber? Not in the eye for an eye sense, but the certainty that person will never again take a life.

    As a black man in America...let a lone Oregon I pretty much bet my life any time I disagree with a white person I do not know....LOL I mean face it, if someone in the room is going to be treated unjustly by the court system or law enforcement it is the tall, dark and opinionated fellow.....LOL

    We have put innocent people to death and we have allowed the guilty to enter society again only to rape and murder some more. There is a solution here and simply being against the death penalty is not going to get us there.

    Great topic Chip. Hope some of the views expressed by the people that chose to contribute will help resolve this important problem.

    Fred

  • (Show?)

    Chris Lowe,

    Before the mid 90's life with out parole was given. However, the parole board could always change that. So yes, there have been people given natural life with out the possibility of parole that eventually made it out into free society again.

    My position is focused at 1st degree murder or the murder of a police officer. I understand the other counts of murder and for the sake of this discussion I am assuming we all are talking about 1st degree murder.

    Things are different in Oregon today. Not perfect, but better than they were 15 years ago. The fact Oregon has been on both extremes when addressing murder shows the fear on the ability to instill "True Life" in absence of a death penalty is valid. Maybe, we can for once put this to bed by addressing the concern....the reason for the concern. Can Oregon Law Makers commit to making sure anyone that is convicted of 1st degree murder is sent to prison for the rest of their natural life and no parole board or Governor can change that?

    Fred

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 8:02:10 PM lestatdelc, If the guy with the knife had killed the person you protected. Would you have been against his life being taken by the state?

    Yes.

    Because the second you allow the state to execute people, you will eventually execute an innocent person, You can't get around it.

    Should that person I stop be tried and convicted of attempted murder? Absolutely. Should that person be removed from society? You bet. Does that mean we should spend more money trying to execute him than it would cost to incarcerate him as long as needed to protect society form such an individual? No. Particularly since once you begin executing people will inexorably lead to me being a party (via the state) of killing an innocent person... hell no.

    If they can take life over something petty....then what is wrong with sending that person to the death chamber?

    So we execute people that are drunk and loaded picking a bar fight?

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 8:17:26 PM Can Oregon Law Makers commit to making sure anyone that is convicted of 1st degree murder is sent to prison for the rest of their natural life and no parole board or Governor can change that?

    In general I hope we can Fred (though what about the situation I will ask about in a moment). I hope we can make life without possible parole real, and permanent. I think it is the only viable and ethical course to take because somewhere down the road someone who is convicted to such a sentence for 1st degree murder might be exonerated by new evidence. At least there is a potential for redress under such circumstances. There is no such redress when you have killed a person innocently.

    What do you do however if a person is out of their mind on drugs and kills a cop? You do not think there is a potential for actual rehabilitation?

  • (Show?)
    Should that person I stop be tried and convicted of attempted murder? Absolutely.

    Should have read:

    Should that person I stopped be tried and convicted of attempted murder? Absolutely.
  • (Show?)

    lestatdelc,

    Does it matter one way or another? Putting a mental case to death or locking them up for the rest of their lives in a cell? The dominate issues are how we as a society will protect life? What value will we place on the taking of life? Can we assure that murders will be removed from society forever? After we address those, then we can get into the degrees of the mental curve? I mean if the punishment for 1st degree murder is life with out parole? Who cares if the offender is a mental case?

    On a personal level. If someone killed someone close to me...family, friends or business associates. I could care less about their mental state. I would not want them harboring a hope that one day they would be able to attend a Blazer game with me. If that means they get the needle or a cell with out a view for the rest of their lives.....I could live with either.

    Fred

  • (Show?)

    "Because a bunch of liberal Scum Bags Kept Letting that Murdering Trash Back out to do it again."

    You mean liberal scumbags like Republican Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas?

  • (Show?)

    TJ's broken link killed comments here. It's now fixed.

  • Ann Christian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The option of a “True Life” sentence (meaning, NO parole ever) was added by the Legislature in 1989 to the other two sentencing options (Death & Life With the Possibility of Parole). (HB 3303, Or Laws 1989, chapter 720.)

    So, True Life (which is a common sentence) has existed for more than 18 years.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Fred Stewart | Dec 15, 2007 11:59:37 PM Does it matter one way or another?

    Yes. It absolutely does.

    Putting a mental case to death or locking them up for the rest of their lives in a cell?

    Yes, it does matter one way or another.

    I could care less about their mental state.

    Thankfully the state does, since such factors determine 1st degree murder v. manslaughter and assessing the actually threat to society someone poses.

    I would not want them harboring a hope that one day they would be able to attend a Blazer game with me.

    Are we mixing 1st degree murder with a homicide committed while the person is out of their mental faculties?

    Because that is a very salient and crucial point.

    If that means they get the needle or a cell with out a view for the rest of their lives.....I could live with either.

    What next, executing the mentally retarded?

    Sorry, but that is borderline socipathic.

  • Harry K (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I believe in the death penalty, and I believe it should be extended far beyond the pitiful few dark skinned men who currently receive it.

    First on the list should be all U.S. policy makers who have contributed to the slaughter and torture of tens of thousands of people.

    Next, those corporate policy makers who, e.g., the tobacco industry, have contributed to the loss of life of millions, not just for the manufacture of their products, but for the intentional obstruction of research that would have brought their crimes to light.

    Next, industrial criminals who have purposely obfuscated disastrous environmental policy, again causing the deaths of tens of thousands.

    Next, well you get the idea. If you are not prepared to order the deaths of the real mass murderers among us, then you need to oppose the death penalty for anyone.

  • (Show?)

    Harry,

    Nice ideas but what will you say when the republicans call for the death penalty for "Drug Dealers"? I think your idea could end up expanding the "War on Drugs" do you really want that?

    Fred

  • Jack (unverified)
    (Show?)

    To dispel some illusions here, both of the men executed in Oregon since the death penalty was reinstated in 1984 were white---neither one chose to appeal his sentence (i.e., they were guilty as sin). 80% of the men currently on death row are white (link). Nearly 10% have Hispanic names (link)---as of 2005, Hispanics make up 10% of Oregon's population (link), probably more if you include the illegals. Can't tell what races the other non-white inmates on death row are since the state doesn't post their pictures. But suffice it to say, the evidence for rampant racism in the implementation of the death penalty here in Oregon is underwhelming.

    Of the 58 men executed between 1904 and 1964 (no death penalty in OR from 1964-84), only 3 were not white (1 was mixed race) (PDF link).

    I find it peculiar that the most hated animal in liberaldom---the white male---is the object of so much concern when it comes to the death penalty issue.

  • Jack (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Harry, I agree that the death penalty should be expanded considerably. China just executed the former head of their Food and Drug Administration for political corruption that led to the death of at least several people. That's a good thing.

    Despite my comment above, I do believe the death penalty is biased against the poor. Not that the poor people on death row shouldn't be executed---they absolutely should---but there should be lots more rich people sitting in the cells next to them.

  • (Show?)

    lestatdelc,

    This Line is to an interesting article I feel addresses the concerns of many that are for and against capital punishment. To sum it up. Even though we have natural life. Between our parole board and changing opinions on what should be the punishment of murders over time. People are worried that people that chose to take life might one day find an opportunity to make it out of prison someday.

    Like I said before, I feel there is a solution to this issue and one that will satisfy most of the people that hold an opinion on the value of capital punishment. It will depend much on the will of the lawmakers to make it happen.

    Fred

  • (Show?)

    Fred and all,

    There's a little bit of "talking past each other" here.

    If me or my family's lives were threatened and I could remedy the situation by taking the threat out, of course I'd do it.

    However, I'm not the State.

    On a related note, if I "knew" that some terris ticking time bomb scenario were in the offing ALA "24", I'd torture my terris.But I'd be understanding that I'm breaking the law and might well wind up in prison for life.

    I'll concede that a moral person might choose to break the law under extraordinary circumstances, but that person knowingly accepts the punishment for deviating from established law.

    The state, on the other hand, doesn't get to execute even one innocent person to get one hundred or even a thousand bad guys.

    The moral price, paid by a society that condones it is too high.

  • tl (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If I am murdered, and there is no doubt of who it is who murdered me in cold blood, is my firm wish that this person NOT be put to death. Another death will not bring me back, and will not bring closure to me (or to those who love and know me well).

    I am firmly opposed to state-sponsored, irreversible, revenge death.

  • (Show?)

    You know I think we might be on to something here. In murder trails the families of victims are allowed to speak for themselves and sometimes be a voice for a family member that is not able to speak for themselves because they are dead. We have living trusts and do not revive orders. I wonder should we allow people to codify how they feel someone that has taken their life be treated in the event they are murdered. Maybe we can add a check mark on their license right next to the one for organ donor that would signify "Life With Out Parole" in the event I am murdered.

    :)

  • Bill Long (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chip,

    I wrote an essay and posted it to my website on the issue. I reproduce it here. If it is too long, cut it..but it also appears at http://www.drbilllong.com/CurrentEventsXIII/NJ.html

    New Jersey Abolishes Death Penalty

    Bill Long 12/17/07

    Lessons for Oregon?

    Today New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill, which passed both Houses of the NJ Legislature, abolishing the death penalty in NJ. NJ had reinstated the penalty in 1982, six years after the US Supreme Court said states could execute again, but it hadn't actually executed a person since the early 1960s. In the heady confidence of abolition, Corzine, whose previous national claim to fame was getting his leg broken when his gubernatorial SUV, traveling 94 miles an hour, was involved in an accident and Corzine wasn't wearing a seatbelt, said that he hoped NJ could serve as a model for other states in abolishing the death penalty. My reflections here consider the issue of whether NJ's experience may "help" Oregon abolish our death penalty.

    New Jersey and Oregon--Differences

    Before we try to translate NJ's experience directly into Oregon's hopes, we ought to consider significant differences between the states. NJ's population is nearly 9,000,000 with Oregon's being about 3,800,000 but NJ only had eight men on Death Row, while Oregon has more than four times that many. That is, NJ eliminated a penalty that in fact wasn't, to use a bad pun, a "live" option. Juries in Oregon, in contrast, often are presented with the question of whether to give the death penalty to an aggravated murderer. Second, NJ is a wealthy state, and OR is a middling to low-middling state with respect to wealth. Studies have confirmed that people feel "magnanimous" towards the death penaltly (i.e., vote to eliminate it) when good economic times prevail. Finally, NJ eliminated the penalty by a legislative vote, while in Oregon it would have to come through an initiative petition or legislative referral. This, in my judgment, will make it much more difficult to abolish the penalty in Oregon.

    The Oregon Experience with the Death Penalty

    Differences between Oregon and NJ should not obscure the fact that the Oregon death penalty has been a public policy, financial and moral failure. Reinstated by an overwhelming majority of Oregon voters in 1984 (75%-25%), the death penalty has only been used twice since then. In both instances "volunteers" were executed. "Volunteers" are people who gave up their appeals after step one of a ten-step process, i.e., after their conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court. It has been a public policy failure because none of the "promises" of the death penalty has been "delivered." The promises in 1983-84 were that it was a quick and relatively inexpensive way to handle the "worst of the worst" offenders, and that its use would deter others from committing heinous murders. None of these are true, and indeed, they are patently false. In fact, if Oregon invested $80 million into any other project and got no results, we would consider that other project a colossal public policy failure.

    Second, the Oregon death penalty has been a financial failure. Because of the Oregon Postconviction Act, condemned defendants have 10 possible appeals/hearings after a death sentence. Since all of those on Death Row are indigent, the state ends up footing the bill for both prosecution and defense at every step of the way (except the federal defense near the end of the process). Studies I have done indicate that enforcing the death penalty costs from 1.5 to 4 times the cost of LWOP (life without the possibility of parole).

    Finally, the Oregon death penalty has been a moral failure. It has been a moral failure because rather than increasing respect for law, it has done the opposite. The Supreme Court's Harberts decision, for example, not only sticks deeply in the craw of the Department of Justice, but has been and probably will be behind efforts to replace certain Supreme Court Justices in the future. The Oregon death penalty is also a moral failure because it has betrayed the families of victims. Promising to give them "closure," it has done nothing but reopen old wounds and perpetuate anguish. And, when you consider that for some of those who are on Death Row it may take between 40 and 45 years from the commission of their crime until their execution (if we still have the death penalty), we see that no respect for law has been generated by the death penalty. In short, nothing good for the citizens of Oregon has come from the Oregon death penalty.

    Conclusion--Time To Abolish?

    I have believed, ever since I studied the Oregon death penalty in detail (A Tortured History: The Story of Capital Punishment in Oregon, 2001), that abolition is the only responsible course to follow. Yet I have my doubts whether it can happen any time soon. Why? Simply because of the invisible nature of the death penalty in Oregon. No one that I know of is arguing for mistaken convictions; no one is claiming that there is systematic problem with poor representation of defendants or scurrilous dirty tricks of prosecutors. No one can make a credible claim at this point about disproportionate representation of minority groups on Oregon's Death Row. No one is about to be executed. No one is "mad as hell" either about the presence of the death penalty or the fact that some people aren't being sentenced to death.

    In addition, we have had a spate of rather heinous murders in the last five years, one of the most visible being Christian Longo's murder of his family. These kinds of things are too "fresh" in the Oregon psyche to be easily forgotten, forgiven or overlooked. Thus, in my final analysis, I think that Oregon, though gaining strength and encouragement from NJ's efforts, probably won't successfully abolish its death penalty now. But, I would love to be surprised...

    3167

  • Bill Long (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chip,

    I wrote an essay and posted it to my website on the issue. I reproduce it here. If it is too long, cut it..but it also appears at http://www.drbilllong.com/CurrentEventsXIII/NJ.html

    New Jersey Abolishes Death Penalty

    Bill Long 12/17/07

    Lessons for Oregon?

    Today New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill, which passed both Houses of the NJ Legislature, abolishing the death penalty in NJ. NJ had reinstated the penalty in 1982, six years after the US Supreme Court said states could execute again, but it hadn't actually executed a person since the early 1960s. In the heady confidence of abolition, Corzine, whose previous national claim to fame was getting his leg broken when his gubernatorial SUV, traveling 94 miles an hour, was involved in an accident and Corzine wasn't wearing a seatbelt, said that he hoped NJ could serve as a model for other states in abolishing the death penalty. My reflections here consider the issue of whether NJ's experience may "help" Oregon abolish our death penalty.

    New Jersey and Oregon--Differences

    Before we try to translate NJ's experience directly into Oregon's hopes, we ought to consider significant differences between the states. NJ's population is nearly 9,000,000 with Oregon's being about 3,800,000 but NJ only had eight men on Death Row, while Oregon has more than four times that many. That is, NJ eliminated a penalty that in fact wasn't, to use a bad pun, a "live" option. Juries in Oregon, in contrast, often are presented with the question of whether to give the death penalty to an aggravated murderer. Second, NJ is a wealthy state, and OR is a middling to low-middling state with respect to wealth. Studies have confirmed that people feel "magnanimous" towards the death penaltly (i.e., vote to eliminate it) when good economic times prevail. Finally, NJ eliminated the penalty by a legislative vote, while in Oregon it would have to come through an initiative petition or legislative referral. This, in my judgment, will make it much more difficult to abolish the penalty in Oregon.

    The Oregon Experience with the Death Penalty

    Differences between Oregon and NJ should not obscure the fact that the Oregon death penalty has been a public policy, financial and moral failure. Reinstated by an overwhelming majority of Oregon voters in 1984 (75%-25%), the death penalty has only been used twice since then. In both instances "volunteers" were executed. "Volunteers" are people who gave up their appeals after step one of a ten-step process, i.e., after their conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court. It has been a public policy failure because none of the "promises" of the death penalty has been "delivered." The promises in 1983-84 were that it was a quick and relatively inexpensive way to handle the "worst of the worst" offenders, and that its use would deter others from committing heinous murders. None of these are true, and indeed, they are patently false. In fact, if Oregon invested $80 million into any other project and got no results, we would consider that other project a colossal public policy failure.

    Second, the Oregon death penalty has been a financial failure. Because of the Oregon Postconviction Act, condemned defendants have 10 possible appeals/hearings after a death sentence. Since all of those on Death Row are indigent, the state ends up footing the bill for both prosecution and defense at every step of the way (except the federal defense near the end of the process). Studies I have done indicate that enforcing the death penalty costs from 1.5 to 4 times the cost of LWOP (life without the possibility of parole).

    Finally, the Oregon death penalty has been a moral failure. It has been a moral failure because rather than increasing respect for law, it has done the opposite. The Supreme Court's Harberts decision, for example, not only sticks deeply in the craw of the Department of Justice, but has been and probably will be behind efforts to replace certain Supreme Court Justices in the future. The Oregon death penalty is also a moral failure because it has betrayed the families of victims. Promising to give them "closure," it has done nothing but reopen old wounds and perpetuate anguish. And, when you consider that for some of those who are on Death Row it may take between 40 and 45 years from the commission of their crime until their execution (if we still have the death penalty), we see that no respect for law has been generated by the death penalty. In short, nothing good for the citizens of Oregon has come from the Oregon death penalty.

    Conclusion--Time To Abolish?

    I have believed, ever since I studied the Oregon death penalty in detail (A Tortured History: The Story of Capital Punishment in Oregon, 2001), that abolition is the only responsible course to follow. Yet I have my doubts whether it can happen any time soon. Why? Simply because of the invisible nature of the death penalty in Oregon. No one that I know of is arguing for mistaken convictions; no one is claiming that there is systematic problem with poor representation of defendants or scurrilous dirty tricks of prosecutors. No one can make a credible claim at this point about disproportionate representation of minority groups on Oregon's Death Row. No one is about to be executed. No one is "mad as hell" either about the presence of the death penalty or the fact that some people aren't being sentenced to death.

    In addition, we have had a spate of rather heinous murders in the last five years, one of the most visible being Christian Longo's murder of his family. These kinds of things are too "fresh" in the Oregon psyche to be easily forgotten, forgiven or overlooked. Thus, in my final analysis, I think that Oregon, though gaining strength and encouragement from NJ's efforts, probably won't successfully abolish its death penalty now. But, I would love to be surprised...

    3167

  • Bill Long (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chip,

    I wrote an essay and posted it to my website on the issue. I tried to reproduce it here, but your site wouldn't accept it for some reason If appears at http://www.drbilllong.com/CurrentEventsXIII/NJ.html

  • (Show?)

    Chip is my state rep, and I appreciate him getting this discussion going.

    Oregon should replace the death penalty with true life, as should every state in the country that hasn't already. I look at it in the context of the Bush presidency. There are a lot of good reasons to oppose the death penalty -- its unjust application, its failure to deter crime -- but really, it's also in our national interest.

    After Guatanamo, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, and other Bush foreign policy abuses, we need all the help we can get repairing our standing in the world. Executing citizens undercuts our moral authority when we push for human rights abroad, and puts us in a select group of nations along side of the most regressive regimes on the planet. We can do better. We should be able to punish crime without punishing our own place in the world.

  • (Show?)

    Wassamatta, Charlie--you don't like us being in the same company as China, North Korea and the Sudan? What's wrong with being in that club?? Those are all swell human rights nations!

    :)

  • bill v (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, recourse to the death penalty is ok if this is the only possible way of defending human lives. The intention is self-defense- not murder. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety, government has to limit itself to those means. Today, since the state has the means for effectively preventing crime, by rendering the murderer incapable of doing more harm - without taking away from him the possibility of changing himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent. Yes, we have to continue to think of the good for even that bad man. This is what it means to be a truly healthy society. After the Civil War- notherners toyed with the ideas of revenge. Lincoln, however would not have it.

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