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Oregon Gov. Brown Commutes All 17 Death Row Sentences

Gov. Kate Brown announced hat she would commute the sentences of all 17 individuals on Oregon’s death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the latest in her end-of-term string of clemency decisions, The Oregonian reports. “I have long believed that justice is not advanced by taking a life, and the state should not be in the business of executing people — even if a terrible crime placed them in prison,” Brown said. “This is a value that many Oregonians share.” The governor told the Department of Corrections to dismantle the state’s death chamber. Oregon has not executed anyone for a quarter century. Brown continued the moratorium that former Gov. John Kitzhaber put in place in 2011. Governor-elect Tina Kotek, who like Brown and Kitzhaber is a Democrat, is personally opposed to the death penalty based on her religious beliefs and said she would continue the moratorium.

Voters have gone back and forth on the death penalty over the years, abolishing and reinstating it repeatedly. In 1984, voters inserted it into the state Constitution. Oregon is one of 27 states that authorizes the death penalty, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. One death row inmate is Randy Lee Guzek, who was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to death for killing Rod and Lois Houser, of Terrebonne. Sue Shirley, the Housers’ daughter, said she was aware of the governor’s decision to commute Guzek’s sentence, but had not heard from the state directly. “I’m horrified and outraged and I don’t know what this means,” Shirley said Tuesday. “Will true life be true life?”Shirley noted that Guzek has been resentenced four times over the past 24 years as the legislature has changed rules, though his death penalty sentence has been repeatedly upheld.


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