Oregon governor commutes all death sentences – step toward abolition
Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the death penalty “dysfunctional and immoral” and commuted the death sentences of the 17 prisoners on the state’s death row.
The commutations, which the governor announced Dec. 13, 2022, took effect Dec. 14 and changed the sentences to life in prison without parole. Brown’s commutations are the culmination of what she called “the near-abolition of the death penalty” by the state legislature in 2019.
At that time, Oregon amended its death penalty law to significantly limit the crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed. Oregon has had a moratorium on executions since 2011, when then-Governor John Kitzhaber announced he would halt executions. The last execution in the state took place in 1997.
When she took office in 2015, Brown said she would keep the moratorium in place. In 2020, after the new death penalty law took effect, Oregon closed its death row facility and moved inmates to general prisons, another step toward dismantling the state’s death penalty system.
In her statement announcing the commutations, Brown called the death penalty “an irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction, wastes taxpayer dollars, does not make communities safer, and cannot and has never been administered fairly and justly.” She said the commutations are in line with the legislature’s efforts to abolish the death penalty.
Brown has served the maximum number of two terms as governor allowed under the Oregon Constitution and will leave office in January 2023. Her successor, Tina Kotek, has said she also opposes the death penalty and will maintain the state’s moratorium on executions.