Oregon Voters May Get a Chance to Repeal the Death Penalty

Oregon is among several states to watch for repeal in coming years. The editorial board of The Oregonian recently endorsed a bill to be introduced by Representative Mitch Greenlick in the upcoming legislative session. The bill would begin the process of amending the state’s constitution to repeal the death penalty through a referendum that would be put before voters as early as November 2014.

The state has only executed three individuals in the last 50 years, two of them during Governor John Kitzhaber’s first term. Last year, Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on capital punishment, saying “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”

Kitzhaber went on to issue a reprieve for death row inmate Gary Haugan, who was convicted of killings in 1981 and 2003 and waived several appeals and asked to be executed. Haugan took the case to court, where a judge ruled that he had the right to reject the reprieve. The governor appealed the ruling. Both parties are waiting to see if the Court of Appeals will pass the case on to the state Supreme Court.

While the editorial board understands the governor’s concerns and opposition to the death penalty, they argue that repeal should be up to the citizens of Oregon and not decided by one man.

The editorial board wrote, “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… it’s possible to picture Oregon joining the ranks of the abolitionists.”

We hope they’re right!

(Photo courtesy of globalcitizencorps.org)

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