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Oregon Capital Punishment News
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  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oregon Capital Punishment News

    Killing Time----Dead Men Waiting on Oregon's Death Row.

    In a forgotten cinder-block room in Salem lurks a monument to Oregon's cowardice and ambivalence toward the death penalty.

    A metal gurney with extensions like the arms of a cross, it stands waiting to hold the next person executed by lethal injection under Oregon's 24-year-old capital punishment statute. The gurney has been used only twice in those years, and only then because those men, both convicted of multiple murders, volunteered for death by waiving their appeals.

    The last one—Harry Charles Moore, who shot his half-sister and her ex-husband to death in Salem—died 11 years ago in this gray fluorescent-lit room, tied down with leather straps cracked and dried with age.

    When an inmate is scheduled for execution, he spends his final days in a death-watch cell under 24-hour observation. When the time comes, he's moved across the hall to the execution room. The executioner and the victims' families, if they choose, watch through 1-way mirrors. The prison superintendent stands beside the gurney. A blue phone in the hall outside connects directly to the office of the attorney general. A red phone goes to the governor, who gives the final go-ahead.

    In the last moments, the executioner pushes a series of plungers from a small room off the death chamber, sending a 3-drug cocktail of lethal poison down tubes strung through holes in the wall.

    Oregon’s machinery of death is clearly in place. But since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions in 1976, Oregon has killed only Moore and Douglas Wright, who was executed in 1996 for killing three homeless men in a remote area of Wasco County.

    Contrast that record with that of Texas, a state that has offed 405 convicted criminals since 1982, making it the No. 1 state for executions.

    Oregon's execution chamber has stood empty for 3,900-plus days—since before Harry Potter became a household name. Meanwhile, 35 men sit alone this week in their cells on Oregon's death row. The longest-serving inmate, a murderous prison escapee named Michael McDonnell, was sentenced to death 23 years ago. Yet his case, like all the others, remains on appeal. There are no executions scheduled.

    "We have a situation in Oregon where nobody but a volunteer gets executed," says Norm Frink, the Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney who oversees murder prosecutions in the county.

    That's because we live in 1 of 10 states that have capital punishment but have executed fewer than 3 people since 1976. Experts say Oregon's next involuntary execution will probably take place around 2012 at the earliest.

    Death penalty opponents may think it's fine that executions aren't happening. But bear in mind the state intends to kill these men someday—though they may go to the gallows with a walker or in a wheelchair.

    Meanwhile, we spend millions to keep all 35 men on death row. Millions more in public money is spent paying lawyers to wage endless battles in court. Victims' families must relive their tragedies again and again while attending multiple court hearings. And prosecutors continue to pursue new death penalty cases each year.

    Whether you're for or against capital punishment, you should be outraged by what's happening. To please the tough-on-crime crowd, we keep the death penalty. But to appease progressives, or to assuage our own conscience, nobody actually gets killed.

    "Clearly, in terms of quick justice, it's a system that's not working," says Judge Michael McShane, who presides over capital murder trials in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

    Yet for the most part, this shameful situation stays hidden. Death row is tucked away on the third floor of a building deep inside the Oregon State Penitentiary. The rarely used execution chamber is behind locked doors in the same prison. And no executions means no front-page headlines.

    "A lot of people aren't even aware that we have a death penalty here," says Rachel Hardesty, a Portland State University criminal justice professor who has spent a decade studying capital punishment in Oregon.

    At the same time as Oregon dithers over literally a life-or-death decision, the rest of the country is undergoing a radical rethinking of capital punishment.

    New Jersey repealed its death penalty system last year after racking up an Oregon-esque record of zero executions in 26 years. The legislatures in Montana and Nebraska last year tried but narrowly failed to do the same. Even Uzbekistan is ahead of Oregon—the Central Asian autocracy repealed its death penalty last year.

    Meanwhile, 2007 saw the lowest number of executions nationwide after the U.S. Supreme Court put executions on hold last September while it hears a case on whether the 3 drugs used in lethal injections cause unnecessary suffering.

    But Oregon remains stuck with a backward system in which the state has the power to kill criminals yet refuses to do so—offending just about everyone who cares about the issue either way.

    Irene James supports the death penalty but calls Oregon's system "senseless." A 78-year-old retired schoolteacher from Tualatin, she has endured 113 days in court since her 26-year-old daughter was murdered in 1987, watching serial killer Dayton Leroy Rogers get re-sentenced twice on appeals. And his case remains years from being resolved.

    Authorities dubbed Rogers the "Molalla Forest Killer" during the 1980s for torturing James' daughter Maureen and at least 7 other women to death—occasionally sawing off their feet before killing them to satisfy a fetish, then scattering their bodies in the woods of Clackamas County.

    "It's not easy," James says of the endless court appearances. "I'm really resentful about the way it works. I'm resentful, because he keeps coming back."

    High-profile supporters of the death penalty share her frustration, saying the system takes far too long. "What we have right now is unacceptable, no doubt about that," says Kevin Mannix, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate who ran in 2002 on a law-and-order mantra.

    Even though we don’t execute people, Frink considers capital punishment a valuable tool for prosecutors. The threat of death, he says, leads defendants to enter plea deals for life without parole or life with a minimum of 30 years—the 2 other penalties, besides death, that Oregon allows for aggravated murder.

    Fiscal watchdogs, however, say death penalty cases waste millions each year in public-safety money. Common sense says it's cheaper to kill someone than keep him in prison for life. But since Oregon keeps convicts on death row for decades—essentially paying for a life sentence anyway—we spend millions on attorney fees moving their cases through a rigorous first trial and long appeals process that are unique to death penalty cases.

    "The typical guy on the street thinks the death penalty is cheap because you flip the switch and walk away," says Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. "They don’t count the 20 years it takes to get there."

    Nationwide, experts say capital cases are 20 times more expensive to prosecute because of the length of appeals. Oregon officials don't make guesses about how much it will cost here, because after 24 years of letting juries sentence killers to death, not a single case has yet gone all the way through the appeals system.

    But Bill Long, a Willamette University law professor and death penalty opponent who wrote the only book on capital punishment in Oregon, has estimated Oregon's oldest cases could end up costing more than $10 million per defendant (the national average for capital cases is around $3 million). Hardesty estimated in 2005 that Oregon and its counties spend at least $9 million a year pursuing death penalty cases.

    Officials in Salem project the state government will spend more than $1 million on attorney fees prosecuting and defending each death penalty case. That includes the cost of defense investigators, but not county prosecutors or local police. It also doesn't include several levels of appeals. That estimated $1.02 million alone—only a fraction of the total cost—is the same as the price of keeping a convict in prison for 36 years at the current cost of incarceration.

    Added up for all 35 capital-punishment cases, that totals $35.7 million in public-safety money. The money is more than what’s budgeted to run the forensics division at the cash-strapped Oregon State Police in 2007-09 ($32.2 million), and nearly enough to fund OSP's entire criminal investigation division for the same period ($40.2 million).

    Meanwhile, there are about 50 more defendants currently charged with death penalty crimes in Oregon, which will suck more than $50 million more out of the state budget if the defendants are sentenced to death. Despite the expense, they may never see execution. Nationwide, only 12 % of people who are sentenced to death are actually executed.

    That leaves even death penalty proponents questioning whether the cost is worth it—people like Mannix, who now wonders if it’s time to look at other alternatives.

    "In this state, we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to plunge the syringe or flip the switch," he says. "You need to understand that the public has mixed emotions on this issue."

    (source: Editorial, Willamette Week)

  2. #2
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    Death Row Inmates Tangle In Prison Yard

    Fight Only Stopped By Warning Shot From Tower

    2 death row inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary got into a fight Friday morning in their recreation yard, according to a news release from the prison.

    According to the Oregon Department of Corrections, the inmates began fighting about 8 a.m. and refused to stop after receiving orders.

    That’s when an officer in one of the towers that overlooks the yard fired 1 warning shot.

    Corrections officials did not name the inmates, but they say both were hurt during the fight. The injuries were not thought to be serious. The inmates were treated by medical staff.

    State police are investigating the incident.

    (source: KPTV News)

  3. #3
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    Death-row inmates face tighter restrictions, lengthy appeals process

    Bruce and Joshua Turnidge will join 34 other men on death row in Oregon after their January sentencing.

    According to a jury's decisions made public Wednesday, the Turnidges deserve to die for one of the highest-profile crimes in county history: the 2008 Woodburn bank bombing that killed two police officers. Under Oregon law, a judge must impose the sentence ordered by the jury.

    When the sentence becomes official Jan. 24, the Turnidges likely will be sent to maximum-security Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, where most inmates sentenced to death are housed.

    The jury's decision in the Turnidge cases will be evaluated by the Oregon Supreme Court as part of an automatic review process in capital cases. The appeals processes on death penalty cases can take decades.

    Some inmates on death row have been there more than 15 years, according to the Department of Corrections.

    Inmates on death row spend less time out of their prison cells and have fewer privileges, more restricted visiting and higher levels of security than inmates in the general population.

    The last time a Marion County criminal case resulted in a death sentence was in 2007. Gary Haugen and Jason Brumwell each were previously convicted of murder and were serving prison sentences at the state penitentiary when they attacked another inmate.

    Haugen and Brumwell stabbed the prisoner 84 times and beat him to death with a leg from a stool in September 2003. In 2007, Marion County Judge Joseph Guimond followed a jury's recommendation and sentenced Haugen and Brumwell to death.

    The Oregon Supreme Court upheld Haugen's sentence in November. Both men remain on death row.

    Executions in Oregon are conducted by lethal injection. The last execution was of Harry Charles Moore, 57, in 1997, according to the Department of Corrections.

    Under Oregon law, only a conviction of aggravated murder can result in a death sentence. There are 391 inmates in Oregon who have been convicted of aggravated murder, but not all of those inmates face death, according to the Department of Corrections.

    Some will spend their lives in prison, and others were sentenced to life in prison with at least 30 years before being considered for release.


  4. #4
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    *Note: Florida and Delaware give death sentences on split juries.

    Will non-unanimous verdicts remain in Oregon?

    Despite recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, local prosecutors and defense attorneys say it's only a matter of time before Oregon will be forced to end non-unanimous jury convictions.

    Oregon and Louisiana are the only two states that permit jurors to convict a defendant with one or two dissenting jurors. A ruling on a Louisiana case last week upheld that as constitutional.

    Defense attorneys, however, vow they will continue knocking on the Supreme Court's doors, asking the justices to reverse a decision made almost 40 years ago that allows the non-unanimous convictions.

    "This is what '12 Angry Men' is all about," said Michael Bertholf, attorney for the Medford-based Southern Oregon Public Defenders office, referring to the 1957 movie starring Henry Fonda. "One person sees things a little bit differently, and he is allowed to discuss his reasoning and maybe get people thinking about it."

    The Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimous verdicts in federal criminal cases. But the court has since consistently ruled that nothing in the U.S. Constitution bars states from allowing some convictions by non-unanimous verdicts. However, even in these two states, first-degree murder, which could bring the death penalty, requires a unanimous verdict.

    In the 1972 case of Apodaca v. Oregon, a companion case to Johnson v. Louisiana, Justice Lewis Powell wrote the majority opinion as the court upheld Oregon's Constitution, which allows a defendant to be convicted on a 10-2 vote for most felony charges.

    The court's ruling has faced numerous challenges. On Feb. 22, the court declined to hear the appeal of a Louisiana man, Troy Barbour, convicted of attempted murder on a 10-2 vote.

    More than 80 defendants have been convicted in the past five years, including at least two dozen in the past 16 months, by nonunanimous juries in the two states, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said in a brief it filed in support of Barbour's case.

    In Josephine County, an Illinois Valley miner, Ronald Eugene Spears, was recently convicted of first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon in the April 2009 shooting of Gregory Glen Graybill.

    After three days of testimony, 11 of the 12 jurors took only a few hours of deliberation to return guilty verdicts. Ten verdicts of guilty were needed to convict. Jurors were asked to vote "guilty" or "not guilty" on each of the crimes, and they were asked to vote "yes" or "not" on whether they believed Spears had used his shotgun to commit the crimes.

    One elderly female juror voted that Spears was "not guilty" of the Measure 11 assault charge. The woman then refused to vote on other aspects of that crime or the lesser charge. "I abstained," she told the court.

    Judge Lindi Baker called the juror's actions "unusual" and asked both the prosecutor, Matt Corey, and Spears' defense attorney, Daniel Simcoe, whether they accepted the verdict. Simcoe accepted the jury's verdict, but he said he would not waive possible appeals.

    Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said if the Supreme Court ultimately decides to hear a case from Oregon or Louisiana, and if that case convinces them to overturn their earlier ruling, that would be the end of non-unanimous verdicts in both states.

    "The ruling would clearly be binding in all states," Huddleston said.

    Bertholf said the day may be coming. In January the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case of an Oregon man, Scott David Bowen, convicted of child sexual abuse. However, the court asked Oregon's Department of Justice to file a response as to whether they should hear the case, Bertholf said. The fact that they requested Oregon to file a response means "at least one justice was interested in the issue," he said.

    The state successfully argued that there was no mandate for a unanimous verdict in all cases.

    "History does not support overruling the interpretation of the Sixth Amendment that this Court adopted in Apodaca," the state said in its response. "As the Court recognized in that decision, the common law at the time of the Founding required a jury verdict to be unanimous. But it does not follow from that historical fact that a unanimous jury became a constitutional guarantee."

    Bertholf said the more people become aware that they or someone they love could be convicted of a crime even if some members of the jury found them not guilty, the sooner the law is likely to be overturned.

    "It's just a matter of time," Bertholf said. "I will continue to request unanimous jury verdicts."


  5. #5
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    Put it to the people on referendum, and Oregon will still have 36 killers on death row, and juries will continue to recommend the death penalty.

    Oregon Senate Panel To Consider Death Penalty Bills

    SALEM, Ore. - Oregon's death penalty is coming under scrutiny at the state capitol in Salem. A Senate panel is set to hear testimony Monday on a slate of bills that supporters and opponents say could reduce the number of death penalty cases in the state.

    Illinois recently did away with the death penalty entirely. None of the Oregon bills would go that far.

    Still, Ron Steiner with the group Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty says the bills are a good start.

    Ron Steiner: "If any of these become law, it will lessen the use of the death penalty. I think these would suggest that fewer prosecutors would pursue it."

    The Oregon bills would shift some of the costs of trying death penalty cases to county governments. Right now the state picks up the defense cost of most death penalty trials.

    Opponents to the measures include Oregon District Attorneys who say the bills are a backdoor attempt to get rid of the death penalty entirely.

    Oregon has 36 people on death row but hasn't executed anyone since 1997.

  6. #6
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    State DOC makes changes to execution procedure

    Capital punishment (death by lethal injection) procedures

    At least three medical professionals will participate in the planned lethal injection execution of Gary Haugen, according to new procedures adopted Thursday by the state Department of Corrections.

    The action came on the heels of criticism of the prison agency's existing rule on capital punishment and its lack of clarity about whether those who insert the needles will have medical training and experience in performing such tasks.

    Jeanine Hohn, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, said Thursday that the new amendment to the rule should answer concerns and questions raised by anti-death penalty activists, prison inmates and the media.

    "We feel like the rule should provide assurances to the public and to the inmates that DOC is prepared to carry out the execution in a way that does not subject the inmate to significant pain and suffering," she said.

    The rule amendment specifies that "at least two qualified medical professionals" will prepare and insert intravenous lines to deliver the three-drug lethal injection.

    It also says that another medical professional will supervise the IV team and oversee the inserting of the needles.

    In carrying out their duties, the IV/medical team "will seek to ensure that no unnecessary pain or suffering is caused to the condemned inmate by the IV procedures," it says.

    Four anti-death penalty groups submitted a petition to Gov. John Kitzhaber Nov. 7 asking him to indefinitely delay the planned execution of Haugen, a twice-convicted murderer who is tentatively scheduled to be executed Dec. 6.

    The activists implored Kitzhaber to declare a moratorium on any executions until completion of a comprehensive review of the death penalty system in Oregon.

    A spokesman for Kitzhaber has said the governor will not comment on the petition until pending court proceedings in the case conclude.

    In their petition, activists raised various concerns about the death penalty and Oregon's execution procedures. They asserted, in part, that the DOC's capital punishment rule failed to clearly say whether those responsible for preparing the drugs and inserting the needles would be medically experienced to perform such duties.

    Hohn said Thursday's adoption of the amended rule followed several months of work on it by corrections officials. The amendment was signed Thursday by Mitch Morrow, deputy director of the DOC.

    The amended rule doesn't address other concerns death penalty opponents have raised about Oregon's execution process.

    For example, activists contended in their recent petition to Kitzhaber that the use of three drugs instead of one "creates an unacceptable risk of a botched execution."

    The amended rule indicates that the department is sticking with the three-drug protocol.

    Tweaking of the state's execution procedures comes as the Oregon Supreme Court considers a separate request to block the looming execution and order a new mental competency hearing for Haugen.

    Haugen has waived his future appeals and repeatedly sought execution, citing his contempt for the legal system and for his dreary existence on death row.


  7. #7
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    Gov. John Kitzhaber stops executions in Oregon, calls system 'compromised and inequitable'

    SALEM -- Gov. John Kitzhaber announced today he will not allow the execution of Gary Haugen -- or any death row inmate -- to take place while he is in office.

    The death penalty is morally wrong and unjustly administered, Kitzhaber said.

    The governor cited his constitutional authority to grant a temporary reprieve for Haugen, in effect canceling the planned Dec. 6 lethal injection of the twice-convicted murderer. Haugen waived his legal appeals and has been preparing for the execution, which would have been Oregon's first in 14 years.

    The change of heart comes as a surprise for a governor who twice before -- in his first term as governor -- allowed executions to go forward. Despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, Kitzhaber said he was upholding the will of the people in allowing the 1996 execution of Douglas Franklin Wright and the 1997 execution of Harry Charles Moore.

    "I have regretted those choices ever since," he wrote in a prepared statement. "Both because of my own deep personal convictions about capital punishment and also because in practice, Oregon has an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice."

    The announcement is a win for death penalty activists who had asked Kitzhaber to declare a moratorium on executions until the state conducts a thorough review of its death penalty system.

    Kitzhaber said his decision is not out of compassion for Haugen or other inmates. But the death penalty is not handed down fairly -- some inmates on death row have committed similar crimes as those who are serving life sentences, he said. It is a criticism Haugen himself has often made and cites as a reason that he has volunteered to die, protesting the unfairness of the death penalty.

    In addition, Oregon only executes those who volunteer, Kitzhaber said, calling the state's system "a perversion of justice."

    While Oregon has ignored the problems in its death penalty system, Kitzhaber noted that other states have abolished executions. Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico all have joined the ranks of states that no longer include capital punishment as a sentencing option, recognizing the serious flaws and high costs of maintaining the death penalty, he said.

    Haugen's case is forcing the state to confront problems with the death penalty, Kitzhaber said. The state needs to engage in a debate about less-costly, more equitable alternatives, he said.

    Kitzhaber supports adopting a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of capital punishment and will ask the state Legislature to come up with possible reforms for the 2013 session.

    The move comes a day after the Oregon Supreme Court cleared the way for Haugen's execution. Kitzhaber declined to commute Haugen's sentence, saying he believes the state must decide for itself on the need for a statewide debate over capital punishment.

    "I am convinced we can find a better solution that keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values," he wrote. "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."

    -- Helen Jung

    The Death Penalty in Oregon

    1864: Legislature enacts death penalty by statute.

    1904: Executions made exclusive to the Oregon State Penitentiary after being done at police headquarters across the state.

    1912: Gov. Oswald West allows four men to be executed at once, hoping the gruesome spectacle will hasten abolition of the death penalty.

    1914: Voters repeal the death penalty.

    1920: Voters restore the death penalty.

    1948: J. Willos is the last man hanged in Oregon before the state switches to lethal gas.

    1961: Jeannace Freeman becomes the first woman sentenced to die. Her sentence is ultimately commuted in 1964 by Gov. Mark Hatfield.

    1962: Leeroy McGahuey is the last man gassed to death.

    1964: Voters repeal the death penalty.

    1978: Voters re-enact the death penalty.

    1981: Oregon Supreme Court deems the death penalty unconstitutional.

    1984: Voters reinstate the death penalty.

    1996: Douglas Franklin Wright becomes the first man executed by lethal injection.

    1997: Harry Charles Moore is the last man to be executed.

    Number of people on death row today: 36


  8. #8
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    Oregon tries to sell execution drugs after reprieve

    The State of Oregon is looking to sell $18,000 worth of lethal drugs now than Gov. John Kitzhaber has declared a moratorium on the death penalty during his time in office.

    The drugs expire within the next three years.

    Some states have struggled to buy execution drugs because of supply shortages, regulations on importation and resistance among manufacturers to being associated with executions.

    Oregon is working with a federally licensed reverse wholesaler to find a buyer.

    Department of Corrections officials say they hope to recover at least some of the money spent to buy the drugs.

    Kitzhaber last month gave a reprieve to convicted killer Gary Haugen, who gave up his legal challenges and was scheduled to be executed.


  9. #9
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    Oregon returns execution drugs

    An Oregon Corrections Department spokeswoman says the state expects to recover much of the $18,000 it spent on drugs it had planned to use to execute a Death Row inmate.

    Gov. John Kitzhaber canceled what had been the planned Dec. 6 execution of murderer Gary Haugen.

    The Democratic governor also announced in late November Oregon would not execute any other condemned inmates during his tenure in office.

    He called Oregon's death penalty "compromised and inequitable."

    A reverse wholesaler has already retrieved the drugs. It's not yet clear how much of a "restocking fee" the state will have to pay.

    The drugs included pentobarbital sodium, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.


  10. #10
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    Kitzhaber appeals court's death penalty ruling

    Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is appealing a judge's ruling that he has no authority to issue a reprieve from the death penalty for a condemned inmate who has rejected the governor's clemency.

    A Kitzhaber spokesman says the governor will file a notice of appeal today and ask the Oregon Court of Appeals to pass it up to the state Supreme Court.

    A trial-court judge in Marion County ruled last month that convicted murderer Gary Haugen must accept a reprieve for it to be valid. Haugen had been scheduled to die by lethal injection last December when Kitzhaber stepped in and blocked it.

    Kitzhaber opposes capital punishment and said he won't allow any executions while he is governor.


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