- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Lawyers for Oregon’s oldest death row inmate are making a last-ditch appeal to allow their client to spend his final days in hospice instead of in prison as he dies from severe chronic pulmonary disease.

Mark Pinnell, 67, was one of the first to seek clemency after former Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on executions in 2011, the Oregonian reports (https://is.gd/Ek6gQR).

Pinnell’s attorney sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown’s office asking for her urgent review on Thursday, when Pinnell was moved off death row to the Oregon State Penitentiary’s infirmary. He was been on death row since 1988. His co-defendant was released in 2011 after 26 years in prison.

“A decision is necessary today,” the letter reads. “Mark has secured palliative care housing in the community. He is in the end-stages of life and poses no threat to the community. He asks simply, ‘Please, let me die on the outside, with my friends and family near me when I pass.’ “

Kitzhaber in February denied Pinnell’s request, saying he was unable to review his application before his term ended. Brown’s administration said a clemency review could take up to six months, which Pinnell’s attorneys say he does not have.

“Mark does not have six months. His disease will kill him long before his federal litigation is concluded; long before focus groups, constituency round tables or social science research can be initiated, much less completed, on the efficacy or failure of the death penalty in Oregon. His disease will kill him long before the next election,” lawyer Teresa A. Hampton wrote.

A spokeswoman for the governor said the request has been received and is being reviewed.

In his own letter to the governor on Aug. 5, Pinnell wrote, “I am a weak, old man. I pose no threat to society. I am very ashamed and sorry for what I did. I’m asking for mercy. Please release me from prison so that I can spend my last days near my family rather than at the Oregon State Penitentiary.”

Pinnell and co-defendant Donald Cornell robbed and killed 65-year-old John Wallace Ruffner in 1985. Pinnell was convicted of multiple aggravated murder counts, including aggravated murder by torture. Cornel was acquitted on all aggravated murder charges by another jury in a later trial and was found guilty of the less serious charge of felony murder.

On Thursday, Hampton asked Brown to give Pinnell an answer while he is still alive. He was hospitalized twice in July for extended stats due to his illness.

“Time has run out for relief to come from the legal system,” she wrote. “At this point, only you can answer this request. If nothing else, Mark deserves an answer before he dies.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com


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