Kate Brown, the Democrat Governor of Oregon, has commuted every single current death sentence for the state, instead issuing a new sentence of life without the possibility of parole to the 17 inmates.
Brown officially announced the commutations in a release made public this past Tuesday.
“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,” she stated.
“Since taking office in 2015, I have continued Oregon’s moratorium on executions because the death penalty is both dysfunctional and immoral,” stated the governor. “Today I am commuting Oregon’s death row so that we will no longer have anyone serving a sentence of death and facing execution in this state. This is a value that many Oregonians share.”
As of writing, the death penalty remains entirely legal in the state of Oregon. Despite this, the state recently passed a bill in 2019 that effectively put an end to the practice despite it not being ignored.
Former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber announced back in 2011 a wholesale moratorium on the death penalty to half the execution of Gary Haugen that same year.
As part of a 2016 campaign, Brown stated that she planned to go further with the moratorium, stating “serious concerns remain about the constitutionality and workability of the law.”
Despite the laws in place, Oregon has not carried an execution of a prisoner since back in 1997.
The death penalty has been the focal point of quite a bit of debate in the state, with the voters of the state going against it on two separate occasions and it being struck down by the Oregon Supreme Court in the past.
These steps taken by Brown are being marked as some of the final steps prior to her leaving office in 2023. Democratic Governor-elect Tina Kotek is slated to be sworn in after the first of the year and has also expressed an intent to continue with the current trend of upholding the death penalty moratorium for Oregon.
“Oregon has not followed through on the death penalty in over 25 years, and as Governor, I would continue the current moratorium. I am personally opposed to the death penalty because of my religious beliefs,” stated Kotek throughout her campaign.
Tim Knopp. the Oregon Senate Republican Leader, released their own statement this past Tuesday morning standing against the choice from Governor Brown.
“This is another example of the Governor and the Democrats not abiding by the wishes of Oregonians,” he explained. “Even in the final days of her term, Brown continues to disrespect victims of the most violent crimes.”
Brown also received some heavy criticism from House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson who claimed that she should have asked for additional input from other legislators and members of the community.
“Governor Brown has once again taken executive action with zero input from Oregonians and the legislature,” expressed Breese-Iverson in her comments. “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.”