- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Departing Gov. Kate Brown is using her clemency powers to commute the capital punishment sentences of Oregon’s 17 death row inmates to life imprisonment.

Ms. Brown, a Democrat, said the state “should not be in the business of executing people — even if a terrible crime placed them in prison.”

“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,” she said Tuesday. “This is a value that many Oregonians share.”

The decision is part of a general reexamination of capital punishment by Democratic lawmakers and others.

There’s been enormous scrutiny of the drug cocktails used in executions, and former Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer frequently criticized the practice as a likely violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Oregon has a moratorium on executions in the state. The governor, who will cede way to Gov.-elect Tina Kotek in January, continued the pause upon taking office in 2015.

Ms. Brown acknowledged the unusual nature of the commutation since it did not reflect personal growth or rehabilitation among the death row prisoners.

“Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral,” she said. “It is an irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction; is wasteful of taxpayer dollars, does not make communities safer and cannot be and never has been administered fairly and equitably.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports those awaiting execution included: Christian Longo, who was sentenced in 2003 for killing his wife and their three children; Bruce Turnidge and his son, Joshua Turnidge, for the 2008 Woodburn bombings that killed police Capt. Tom Tennant and Oregon State Police Trooper William Hakim; and Jesse Compton, who killed a 3-year-old girl, Tessylnn O’Cull, in 1997.

The Oregon Department of Justice’s victim advocate team is reaching out to the families to notify them of Ms. Brown’s decision.

The governor said what happened to the families is brutal and appalling, but she stood by her decision to remove Oregon from the execution business.

Clackamas County District Attorney John Wentworth criticized the decision, saying murderers will “celebrate Christmas with the certainty of life while their victims’ families will spend Christmas Day without their loved ones or the justice they deserve,” according to OPB.

Ms. Brown said crime victims suffer from the court process because prisoners sit on death row for years without a resolution.

“My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases,” she said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide