April 2014 Update Newsletter

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Update Newsletter


Volume X, No. 4            April, 2014

 
 

In this Issue...  

Yet Another Former Oregon Chief Justice Speaks Out:  Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, Jr., has joined former Chiefs Edwin Peterson and Paul DeMuniz in endorsing repeal.
Annual Meeting and University Tour Focus on Wrongful Executions: Professor Richard Stack will discuss his research into wrongful convictions on three campuses and at OADP's Annual Meeting.
May 13: OADP's Fundraiser Annual Meeting in Eugene: Get your tickets online at OADP.org.
Controversy Continues to Swirl around Lethal Injection Protocols: Social and traditional media report studies and stays; Action items for Supporters!
OADP Advisory Council: Welcome new member Lynn Strand.
Oregon Establishes an Innocence Project: National conference visits Portland to mark kickoff of new organization.
Millenials: the importance of 20-somethings to the cause of death penalty repeal.
Oregon Youth Legislature repeals Death Penalty: An even younger set joins in the action.

Yet Another Former Oregon Chief Justice Speaks Out

Twenty-nine years of Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justices oppose the death penalty.
 
Edwin J. Peterson Wallace P Carson Jr demuniz
Chief Justice
Edwin J. Petersen
1983-1991
Chief Justice
Wallace P. Carson, Jr.
1991-2005
Chief Justice
Paul J. DeMuniz
2005-2012

          Retired Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, Jr. has joined two other former Chief Justices of the high court in speaking out against the Oregon death penalty. In recent months both his predecessor, Justice Edwin Peterson, and his successor at the top position in the Oregon judiciary, Justice Paul DeMuniz, made public statements calling for repeal of the death penalty.
          Justice Carson’s statement issued April 17th, stated:

           “In Oregon's 155-year state history, we have adopted the death penalty four times and abolished it three times (two by vote of the  people and one time by the Supreme Court).  It now appears that Oregonians may have a fifth opportunity to consider the sentence of death either by referral from the Legislature or by initiative petition with the required number of votes.
           "In my opinion, the exceptional cost of death penalty cases and the seemingly haphazard selection of which cases deserve the death penalty outweigh any perceived public benefit of this sanction.  The fairly recent addition of a "true life" (no parole) penalty should reasonably substitute for any deterrence value that some may claim that the death penalty provides. It is time for a change.”

          Justice Carson’s statement adds weight to the growing wave of support for repeal in Oregon. Nationally and here in Oregon, more and more people are calling for a replacement of the death penalty. His statement, added to those of the other retired Chief Justices, provides a profound clarion call for repeal.
          In his earlier statement in May, 2013, Justice DeMuniz referred to the death penalty as a failed public policy and stated, “The death penalty is getting a 'pass' from legislative scrutiny, when looking for ways to trim Oregon’s budget to fund starving schools and public safety.” He went on to say,We currently have fewer state police today than we did in 1960.It is estimated that Oregon taxpayers spend more than $28 million annually to maintain a death penalty, while having had only two executions in the past 50 years.
          When Justice Peterson issued his statement in December of 2013, he addressed both the unfairness and mistakes made in the administration of the death penalty. The same crime may be treated differently based on the county in which the crime takes place.” He went on to cautionwith death on the table, fairness must be achieved. Under our system, fairness is difficult to achieve. Mistakes are made. The  system sets up the possibility of a fatal mistake--killing an innocent person.”
          Nationally, there have been 144 exonerations of people sentenced to death and later cleared of wrong-doing in the cases in which they were convicted. OADP welcomes the important statement and added support of former Chief Justice Carson.

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May 12-14:  Annual Meeting and University Tour Focus on Wrongful Executions

          On November 22, 2011, when Governor Kitzhaber announced the moratorium on executions, he stated, “In practice Oregon has an expensive and unworkable death penalty system that fails to meet basic standards of justice. It is clear the system is broken.” One important standard of justice that resonates with Oregon voters is the potential for mistakes in the administration of the death penalty system. The most tragic mistake would be the execution of an innocent person.

richard-stack_grave-injustice 

        American University Professor and author Richard Stack will address the history of such tragic mistakes in our country in three university talks and in the keynote address at the 2014 OADP Annual Meeting. Professor Stack's most recent book, GRAVE INJUSTICE: The Unearthing of Wrongful Executions, analyzes why nineteen individuals who were likely innocent were convicted and executed. These cases illustrate the flaws of the death penalty which, Stack argues, is ineffective in deterring crime and costs more than sentences of life without parole. The university talks are free and open to the public. The Annual Meeting is a fundraiser for OADP, but is open to the public with a ticket (see article below).
          The schedule for Prof. Stack's visit to Oregon is as follows:
Monday,  May 12th      Portland State University, 4PM
                               Smith Memorial Student Union, Rm 296/8
Tuesday, May 13th      Western Oregon University, 2PM                                    Calapooia  Room in Werner University Center
Tuesday,  May 13th   Annual Meeting in Eugene, 6PM                                          Temple Beth Israel, 1179 E. 29th Ave
Wednesday May 14th  Oregon State University, 12 Noon        
                               OSU Memorial Union, Room #213

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May 13: OADP Annual Meeting in Eugene

          In addition to hearing Professor Stack's compelling research into wrongful executions (see previous article), the OADP annual meeting is an opportunity for all OADP supporters to approve the slate of directors and officers for the next 12 months and to hear the about our progress on the journey to repeal in Oregon. The general public is invited to attend and take the opportunity to learn more about our efforts to improve our state's criminal justice system.
          This year’s meeting will include a simple soup and salad supper.
Tickets are available online at www.oadp.org with a credit card or through Paypal. Individual tickets are $25. Tables for eight can be reserved by calling (503) 990-7060. Table sponsors will have a table sign, be noted in the program for the evening, and be recognized from the podium.
          The event will take place in Eugene at Temple Beth Israel, 1175 E. 29th Ave.

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Controversy Continues to Swirl around
Lethal Injection Protocols

          In just the first few months of 2014, news outlets and social medGurney 2ia have reported extensively on the topic of drugs used in executions. Here’s a sampling:
          Federal Judge Vanessa Gilmore ordered a halt to two Texas executions planned for April. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice refused to disclose which compounding pharmacy provides the lethal doses of pentobarbital, which were scheduled to be used for the executions.
          Louisiana courts provided a 90-day stay on the execution of Christopher Sepulvado while they study the issues of lethal drugs. Then, on April 7, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a hearing on the Louisiana inmate who wanted state officials to tell him what lethal-injection drugs they planned for his demise.
          An Oklahoma appeals court postponed two executions due to questions about the drugs used.
          Tennessee has run out of the three-protocol drugs and is now planning to resume executions with a single dose of pentobarbital, an anesthetic most commonly used to euthanize pets.
          Ohio used a readily available, but untested, two-drug cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone, which took 25 minutes to finally kill inmate Dennis McGuire.
          European drug manufacturers refuse to ship lethal drugs used for executions to the United States based on the European Union’s ban on the death penalty and executions.
          Many states are running out of time-dated drugs used for executions.
          Missouri sent undercover agents to buy $11,000 worth of execution drugs from an Arkansas compounding pharmacy. Once the word got out and the pharmacy was named, the pharmacy quickly announced it would sell no more lethal drugs used for executions.
          So where does this nationwide conversation take us? Some staunch proponents of the death penalty want to speed up the process and move back to firing squads, hangings, or the electric chair. However, moving executions along at a faster pace will only increase the chances of executing an innocent person.
          With all of this interest and publicity, those of us opposed to the death penalty should make particular efforts to persuade the entire medical profession to draw the line and demand a stop to executions. Write, call, or email the Oregon Medical Association, 11740 SW 68th Pkwy #100, Portland, OR 97223. 503-619-8000. E-mail: OMA@theOMA.org
          At the same time, we should also be pursuing the Oregon Pharmacists Association to speak up and oppose the death penalty. The association’s contact information is:  Oregon State Pharmacy Association, 147 SE 102nd Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97216. 503-582-9055. Email: info@oregonpharmacy.org 
          Reinforce your efforts by telling your doctor and pharmacist directly that you oppose the death penalty and that as a matter of ethics and their oath to “heal and do no harm” they should, too. Encourage your personal medical professionals to stand up and say “no more executions.”
          Send us your letters and emails, and we will post them on our www.oadp.org website and our social media outlets.

 

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OADP Advisory Council

          Over the past three years, the OADP Advisory Council has become a very important and integral part of our organizational growth. Now over ninety members strong, the members have brought great advice, energy, and networking capabilities to our cause.
          Included in the Advisory Council membership are faith leaders, academics, lawyers, community activists, former law enforcement and corrections officers, communications professionals, and ordinary citizens who care deeply about peace and justice. The roles they have played, as individuals and collectively, have contributed greatly to expanding the presence and visibility of OADP throughout Oregon.
          Some current members of our OADP Board of Directors began their abolition activism as advisors. Few have fallen off the radar, and many have increased their participation, all without the obligation to attend regular meetings. “No meetings” seems to be an attractive line in the invitation to join the Council.
          The newest member of the Advisory Council roster is an example of an already-busy person who has decided to channel some of her abundant energy into a cause that stimulates her core beliefs in her faith and her dedication to causes of peace and justice. In her application, Lynn Strand of Lake Oswego stated, “I belong to many social justice groups and work at all levels, from humble servant stuffing envelopes to serving at a homeless shelter.”
          Lynn, a retired dentist, has the energy and passion that distinguishes many members of the council, and we continue to look for people with this level of commitment. She is a member of “Salt and Light,” St. Vincent de Paul Society, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic parish, and many of the parish ministries.
          Lynn has stepped up to take on a valuable and needed assignment—working with Catholic parishes in Oregon to educate members on issues surrounding the death penalty, to energize those communities, and to mobilize them into action as we take our journey to abolition in Oregon.
          One of our organizational goals is to have someone like Lynn for every denomination and faith community found in Oregon. Active support from faith communities has been an important factor in states that have repealed their death penalty. This also holds true for those with vigorous campaigns for repeal. As OADP’s presence grows and our list of activities expands, the work requires more people taking leadership roles. The Board members are all active participants in these efforts. Many of our Advisory Council members are as well, and we need more. Please consider stepping up your active role in the work of OADP.
          As Lynn further states in her application to the Council, “Repealing the death penalty has been a goal of mine my entire life. I am committed to this cause.” Please consider adding your energy and dedication to the cause as well. 

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Oregon Establishes an Innocence Project

          The Innocence Project is a national non-profit legal organization

Scheck and DeMuniz
Barry Scheck (left) introduced by Justice Paul DeMuniz at Oregon Innocence Project kickoff April 9

committed to exonerating wrongly convicted people and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. It was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. To date, the work of the Innocence Project has led to the freeing of 316 wrongfully convicted people, including 18 who spent time on death row. Its success has spawned local initiatives operating in every state in the nation--except, to date, Oregon--and adding to the total of innocent prisoners who have been freed. 
          The Innocence Project has also helped organize those local initiatives into the Innocence Network, an organization of law and journalism schools and public defense offices that work together to help convicted felons prove their innocence. Fifty-six American initiatives and nine in other countries are a part of the network. The organization just held its annual conference in Portland on April 11 and 12.
          As a result of the efforts of Prof. Aliza Kaplan of Lewis and Clark Law School and Bobbin Singh, Executive Director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center (both OADP Advisory Council members) and others, Oregon will soon join other states with its own innocence project.   
          The newly formed Oregon Innocence Project, which will join the Innocence Network and be housed at the Lewis & Clark Law School in SW Portland, is pleased toSteven Wax announce Steven Wax as its legal director. Currently the Federal Public Defender (FPD) for the District of Oregon, Wax has announced his intent to join the newly created Oregon Innocence Project (OIP) in the fall of 2014, when he will resign from his current position.
          Wax (pictured at right) has served as Oregon’s federal defender since 1983 and is one of the longest-serving public defenders in the country. A cum laude graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Law School, he has taught at Lewis & Clark Law School, serves as an ethics prosecutor for the Oregon State Bar, and lectures throughout the country. As FPD, Wax has successfully established himself as one of the premier criminal defense practitioners in the country.

          A kick-off fund-raiser for the Oregon Innocence Project was held April 9, with several major law firms stepping up as initial funders. Also providing support were OADP, Lewis & Clark Law School, Metropolitan Public Defenders, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and other entities with a justice and fairness agenda. For more information visit www.oregoninnocence.org. 

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Millenials

          A new study published in March 2014 and featured in two articles in the Oregonian placed a spotlight  on “millennials.” The study, conducted by Quinn Thomas Public Affairs and Portland opinion polling firm DHM Research, points out the impact millennials are having and will continue to have on future elections.
          The term "millenials" generally refers to the generation of people born between about 1982 and 2000. It is also referred to as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X—those born between the early 1960s and the 1980s. It has also been called the Peter Pan or Boomerang Generation because of the propensity of some to move back in with their parents (perhaps due to economic constraints) and a growing tendency to delay some of the typical adulthood rites of passage like marriage or starting a career. 
          As OADP and other like-minded organizations push the discussion of the death penalty, the information in this report may become vital to moving the public opinion needle in the direction of replacing the death penalty with a more effective response to violent crime.         
          According to the Oregonian articles and a discussion we had with Zach Hyder of Quinn Thomas, one of the authors of the study, some of the findings were that millennials believe more strongly in state and local government, are more inclined to be unaffiliated in partisan politics, and care deeply about social issues like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. 
          The study compares the attitudes of millennials with the Boomer Generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, many of whom are parents of the subjects of the study. One attitude pointed out by the researchers was that boomers are more prone to complain about government spending and rank a bloated Public Employees' Retirement System as one of their top issues. On the other hand, millennials are more likely to support government programs, especially ones that help reduce the cost of education and create jobs…practical matters for them.
          The younger set is staying away from political parties, a point supported by other national studies. According to Zach Hyder, “Those numbers are extremely high in Oregon. The younger they are, the more likely they are to be politically disaffiliated.”
          According to Legislative Director Mario Parker-Milligan of the Oregon Student Association, “We rarely come across a student who doesn’t care about local politics or statewide stuff.” Younger voters are very engaged, but in different ways than their parents—they spend a lot of time on social media.
          Tim Nesbitt, a past president of Oregon AFL-CIO, who writes a regular column in the Oregonian, notes a recent Pew Research Center study found that adult millennials aged 26-33 are the best-educated group of adults in American history. He points out that, while less likely to belong to a political party, they are no less likely to vote. 
          So what does all this suggest to OADP and others interested in a safer, more peaceful culture, one without a death penalty? 
          What it says to this writer is that (1) we need to recruit many more young people to active roles on our efforts, and (2) we must increase our presence in social media.         
          OADP has some younger people interested in our efforts, but far too few.  Readers, we need your help:

  • We need to create more events and opportunity for discussion among organizations and school classes full of young people.
  • If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, older sibling, trusted older friend or neighbor, provoke a conversation about the flaws with the death penalty with those younger people who respect you and your opinions.
  • “Like” OADP on FaceBook.
  • Create your own posts for FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.
  • Plan and host a house party. Invite friends, neighbors, and relatives and ask OADP to send out one of our volunteer videographers or photographers who are creating cyber-friendly messages for distribution on social media. You can view some of those messages on the www.oadp.org web site.

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Oregon Youth Legislature Repeals Death Penalty
YG banner

          During its annual session, April 3-5, the 2014 Youth Legislature of the State of Oregon repealed the state’s death penalty. A national program run by the YMCA for high school students across the land, in its 68th year, the program uses the motto, “Democracy must be learned by each generation.”
          Each year students from around the state come together to conduct a mock session complete with electing a Senate President, House Speaker, Committee Chairs, and a Governor, and write and vote on bills, just like the regular legislative body of the state.
          This year a bill was sponsored by Chris Arreola and Anna Silberman of Salem’s Sprague High School to repeal the death penalty in Oregon. Section 1 of the bill read, “The death penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime.”
          Section 2 of the bill read, “The repeal of the death penalty denotes that any form of capital punishment be disallowed in the State of Oregon. Rather, life in prison without possibility of parole will be used. All persons currently on death row will have their sentences changed in compliance with this bill.”
          Section 3 of the bill read  “The Oregon Department of Justice will oversee the implementation of this bill.”  The Enactment Date was set for January 1, 2015.
            The bill was debated and passed.
          Jessica Ickes, the YMCA Youth and Government State Director says, “It’s all about the kids. They learn just how the real state government works. They learn the functions and the fact that government ‘by the people’ will someday mean them.”
          The 2014 bill to repeal the death penalty was signed into law by the YMCA Youth and Government elected governor, Carter Craig, of West Albany High School.
          If OADP is successful in getting a repeal bill on the actual November 2016 ballot, which is our goal, the youth of the state will have a lot to say about the outcome. In 2016, it will have been 32 years since the last vote of the people, so no one under the age of 50 will have had a chance to vote on the issue. 

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