PDX Dispatch 12.19.22: Spare the Chuds, Don’t Spare The Club®

Outgoing Oregon governor Kate Brown has commuted all seventeen death sentences pending in the state.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Calling the death penalty immoral, Governor Kate Brown commuted the death sentences of 17 inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Brown, 62, announced the commutations will take effect Wednesday, December 14 in a full-throated condemnation and repudiation of the death penalty.

“Since taking office in 2015, I have continued Oregon’s moratorium on executions because the death penalty is both dysfunctional and immoral. Today I am commuting Oregon’s death row so that we will no longer have anyone serving a sentence of death and facing execution in this state. This is a value that many Oregonians share,” she said in a statement.

The state, she said, “should not be in the business of executing people” even though she noted a “terrible crime” led to a conviction and the death sentence.

Brown said she has commuted other prisoners’ sentences after they showed “extraordinary growth and rehabilitation.” But the commutation of the 17 prisoners on Oregon’s death row has nothing to do with that.

Her decision “reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral. 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.”

Although Oregon’s death penalty remains in place, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1013 in 2019 that nearly abolishes the punishment, she said.

She also ordered the dismantling of the state’s “execution chamber” (lethal injection was the means).

Capital punishment remains in Oregon’s state constitution–which was amended by referendum in 1984 to include it; legally its repeal requires a popular vote. It’s only been used twice since 1984, both times after convicts dropped their appeals, in 1996 and 1997, when the last convict to be executed in Oregon petitioned against the automatic appeal provided for by law and threatened to sue anyone seeking to block the execution. The state hasn’t executed anyone involuntarily for 60 years.

The aforementioned Senate Bill 1013, now law, narrowed the scope of eligibility for the death penalty by redefining “aggravated murder”. In passing the law legislators promised it would not be applied retroactively, but the state supreme court nonetheless cited it (as well as “prevailing societal standards”) in favor of an appeal to a death penalty conviction, paving the way for a host of successful appeals from those whose crimes don’t qualify under the new definitions–a moot point now due to Governor Brown’s actions.

Incoming progressive governor Tina Kotek poses no threat to re-introduce the death penalty or raise the issue of the constitutionality of the Governor’s actions. Last November the state came closer than it has in a long time to electing a Republican–reacting negatively to Brown (least popular governor in the nation) as well as former house leader Kotek’s perceived role in the increase in crime and homelessness since 2020. Had the Republican won last November Brown’s actions would be very different; one has to wonder if they were in place for that eventuality.

As it is, the death penalty remains the law of the land and victim’s families are outraged. But we remain a one-party state with anemic Republican opposition and a Democratic trifecta controlling both chambers of the House and the governorship. As for public opinion a good recent poll is impossible to find in a casual online search, and the questionable ones range from 70 to 30 percent against capital punishment (2014) to 66 to 34 percent in favor (2012). My impression is support for the death penalty statewide is probably a minority now and soft whatever the numbers. The multitude of challenges to it making it a rarity rendered it a dead letter long ago. It hasn’t thus been a factor for so long the public barely associates it with the broader issue of crime. Still, the Governor’s statement asserted “many”, not a majority, of Oregonians oppose capital punishment. Likewise news accounts refer to falling support for the practice but won’t cite numbers.

Brown had already used her powers of clemency more than any previous governor and in the “racial reckoning” (as declared by the elite through the media, public not consulted) following the George Floyd riots of summer 2020, unleashed a frenzy of commutations.

Meanwhile Portland broke its annual homicide record at 92 with three weeks remaining in the year.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland police have made an arrest in the case of a deadly stabbing that occurred on Friday morning in Southeast Portland’s Centennial neighborhood.

Homicide detectives booked Andrew M. Morrow, 36, of Portland, into the Multnomah County Detention Center. He is facing one charge of murder in the second degree.

The deadly stabbing in SE Portland’s Centennial neighborhood became the 91st confirmed homicide in the city this year, according to Portland police — breaking last year’s record of 90 homicides.

Officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct responded just after 11:30 a.m. to reports of a disturbance in the 17100 block of SE Powell Boulevard, at the Meadow Park East apartments.

Police arrived to find an injured victim, suffering from apparent stab wounds. Paramedics responded to treat the victim, but they died at the scene.

Is there a sadder epitaph than “died at the scene”?

In Gresham, on metro Portland’s eastern flank, auto thefts are becoming so common the city has taken to handing out anti-theft devices for autos. Yes, they’re giving out The Club.

GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — After seeing a notable increase in car theft in 2022, Gresham officials provided a free anti-car theft device called The Club.

Anyeon who showed up with their vehicle and proof of ownership was able to claim the steering wheel lock — and hundreds of people showed up.

Gresham Police Chief Travis Gullberg said the “idea is prevention and deterrence.”

The biggest car model targets for thieves, police said, are Fords, Hondas, Toyotas, Chevrolets and Kias.

That really takes me back to a simpler (but similar) time:

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