Oregon Gov. Will Commute State's Death Sentences

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday that she will commute the sentences of all 17 inmates on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole, stating, "I have long believed that justice is not advanced by taking a life.

Oregon Gov. Will Commute State's Death Sentences
Image credit: Twitter [via New York Post]

Facts

  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday that she will commute the sentences of all 17 inmates on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole, stating, "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."
  • The outgoing Democratic governor's decision comes amid a state moratorium on executions that's been in effect since 2011. There have been just two executions in Ore. since 1976 — in 2019, Brown signed legislation reducing the number of crimes punishable by death.
  • Oregon has a long history of opposing the death penalty, abolishing it via popular referendum in 1914 and 1964, and then reinstating it in 1920 and 1978. Former Gov. John Kitzhaber first imposed the moratorium in 2011 before Brown extended it, with Brown also commuting more than 1K sentences during her tenure.
  • Following the 2019 death penalty reform legislation, Oregon's state Dept. of Corrections began phasing out death row by reassigning inmates to other housing units in 2020.
  • In her statement, Brown added, "My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases."
  • The commutations come after the US saw its number of executions in 2021 fall to its lowest level in 30 years, with the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center reporting that five states and the federal government carried out 11 total executions last year.

Sources: NBC, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, New York Post, and FOX News.

Narratives

  • Left narrative, as provided by TruthOut. It’s been a decade since the moratorium on executions in Oregon began, and the state’s gone 25 years without an execution, so these commutations aren’t a big policy change. Capital punishment is immoral, and research shows it doesn't prevent crime. Abolishing executions will actually save the state time and money, and it's the right ethical approach.
  • Right narrative, as provided by USSA. After a tenure full of failed policies on homelessness and crime, Brown is insulting crime victims one more time before leaving office. She was voted America's most-hated governor two years in a row and now has invoked unnecessary fears over whether a life sentence will really mean life. Given Oregon's history of radical policies, these death row inmates might even get released.