Ruling: New Oregon Death Penalty Rules Affect Old Cases

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A new law curbing use of the death penalty in Oregon now appears to go further than supporters intended, after a recent ruling that a former death row inmate cannot be sentenced to death upon retrial.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the state’s prosecutors are working to determine how many murder cases might be affected.

Meanwhile, lawmakers behind the new law said Tuesday they were surprised and would seek a fix as soon as possible — even asking the governor to call a one-day special session next month.

In passing Senate Bill 1013 this year, lawmakers limited use of capital punishment to a narrow set of circumstances, including terrorist acts and murders of children or law enforcement officers. But officials also appeared to take pains to ensure those changes would apply to sentences moving forward — not cases where a sentence was pending or those where a punishment had already been handed down

Only two inmates have been executed in the state in the last 50 years, and both had ceased fighting their sentences. Gov. Kate Brown has continued a moratorium on executions put into place in 2011 by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber.

There are 35 inmates currently on Oregon’s death row, including Randy Lee Guzek, who was sentenced in 1988 for the murder of a Terrebonne couple.

Guzek has been sentenced to death four times.

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