Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Wednesday she commuted the sentences of 17 inmates awaiting execution. While the prisoners will no longer be on death row, they will still spend rest of their lives in prison.
“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,” Brown said in her announcement.
Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend, who is also Oregon Senate Republican leader, is making his opposition to this decision known.
“I think it’s outrageous and unfortunate that the governor has unilaterally acted to undo justice for these victims and their families,” said Knopp.
The death penalty’s history in Oregon is a long one: voted out twice, struck down by Oregon’s Supreme Court once and inserted back into law four times.
“It should only be the voters who decide whether they want to eliminate it or not,” said Knopp.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel’s response: the voters have decided.
“Oregonians have enshrined in our constitution the clemency power,” said Hummel. “We have said we want our governors to review past convictions and decide whether they should stand.”
Senator Knopp disagrees with the governor’s constitutional ability to change past convictions.
“That undoes justice,” said Knopp “It’s clearly someone who doesn’t understand what justice actually means who has done this.”
Hummel said Oregonians who disagree with the governor having the ability to provide clemency would have to start a petition and gather signatures to change the state’s constitution to remove that power.