Today's Eugene Register-Guard publishes the editorial, "Revisit the death penalty."
Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, is not widely known in Oregon outside the legislative halls in Salem and the Portland-area medical community. The founder and later director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research for 30 years, he also spent a decade as a professor and chair of preventive medicine at Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University. In 2002 he was elected to the Oregon House and has been re-elected five times.
There’s a good chance, however, that Greenlick’s name will become a household word in Oregon before the 2014 general election. That’s because he’s announced his intention to introduce a bill in the 2013 Legislature asking voters to amend the state constitution to eliminate Oregon’s death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
There are a number of reasons capital punishment should be abolished, but chief among them is that an execution is irreversible, and sometimes the wrong person is convicted. By one tabulation 135 death penalty inmates in the United States have had their convictions reversed in the past 36 years, some on legal technicalities but increasingly because DNA testing revealed that the wrong person had been arrested, prosecuted, tried and found guilty.
It’s time for Oregonians to consider — again — rescinding the state’s death penalty. Replacing it with a life sentence and no possibility of parole should help make that happen. Greenlick’s proposal should pass the Legislature, be placed on the ballot and be approved by voters.
"Oregon's life-or-death vote," is the Oregonian editorial.
Oregon's laws on capital punishment aren't meant to be played as games of chess between governors and convicted killers. These laws also aren't intended to create more uncertainty and anguish for the families of victims.
This is precisely why Oregon voters need another chance to vote on the death penalty. Letting the rules change abruptly based on a governor's personal sentiments serves only to undermine confidence in the state's justice system.
State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, says he will introduce a bill during the 2013 legislative session that would propose a constitutional amendment to repeal the death penalty, as The Oregonian's Helen Jung reported last week. Under Greenlick's plan, Oregonians would vote on the amendment in November 2014.
Five states -- New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and New Mexico -- have abandoned the death penalty in recent years. Advances in DNA testing, combined with dogged advocacy work, have startled the public into realizing that dozens of innocent people have been wrongly sentenced to die based on faulty evidence and poor legal defense. Oregon has grown more liberal since its last vote on capital punishment about three decades ago, and it's possible to picture Oregon joining the ranks of the abolitionists.
Oregon prosecutors Joshua Marquis and Steven Atchison write the OpEd, "Citizens and capital punishment: The death penalty conversation isn't new for Oregon," for the Oregonian.
There has been a very robust conversation going on for the 28 years of the "modern" era of capital punishment in Oregon -- in the courts; in the classrooms of high schools, colleges and law schools; in the Legislature; and on the street.
Oregon is the home to direct democracy, thanks to William U'Ren. In its editorial, The Oregonian lists five states that have stepped away from the death penalty in the past decade. What wasn't mentioned was that in not one of those states did the people vote to abolish the penalty. In Connecticut it was done despite more than 62 percent of voters saying they opposed the action, and in the other states it was either the action (as in Illinois) of a lame duck legislature or a state where the governor could exercise the power to abolish it.
Most states do not share Oregon's (and California's) belief that the ultimate voice belongs to the people. In the past 50 years in America, only three times have the people of any of these United States made a decision about whether to keep or abandon the death penalty. In 1964 Oregonians fairly convincingly voted to abolish the death penalty. In 1984 the same state voted even more emphatically to restore it. In 2012, in one of the most underreported stories of the election year, California turned away by a significant margin an effort to abolish the death penalty. More than $7 million was spent in that effort, against less than $300,000 for those seeking retention of the penalty.
The case of Kitzhaber's action in the Haugen case is being decided in the courts. Thus far, a respected judge, an opponent of capital punishment, has ruled that the governor had no right to grant a "reprieve" where none was asked, and now the governor is appealing that decision.
Earlier coverage from Oregon begins at the link.