Russ Feingold

It's just really tragic that after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years, we can't leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution.

-Russ Feingold

Aberon Waugh

The main objection to killing people as a punishment...is that killing people is wrong.

-Aberon Waugh

Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.

-Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun

John Donne

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

-John Donne

Helen Prejean

Government... can't be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of it's citizens to kill.

-Sister Helen Prejean

December 2013 Update Newsletter

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Update Newsletter

Volume X, No. 2     December, 2013

 
 

In this Issue...  

A Path to Repeal in Oregon: OADP targets the Nov 2016 general election for a ballot measure to repeal Oregon's death penalty. Lots of work ahead of us!
Another Oregon Chief Justice Speaks Up: Last issue we brought you retired Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz. In this issue, we reprint the op-ed of retired Chief Justice Edwin Peterson from OregonLive, October 23.
From the Board Chair, Ron Steiner: Our year-end fundraising request--this year Ron asks that you consider a three-year pledge to help carry us through to our goal in 2016.

Events: A dozen in October and November, led by the Ecumenical Banquet in Portland, with links to the powerful moral statements of 15 religious leaders from our state.
New Advisory Council Members: Welcome Bob Delong and Anne Shihadeh
Mark Baker, CPA, Joins OADP Board of Directors: Welcome Mark.
Another Death Row Exoneration: The nation's 143rd, Reginald Griffin of Missouri.
The Conservative Viewpoint: Kansan Chase Blasi advocates for repeal.
Retired President Speaks Up: Jimmy Carter once again urges the U.S. Supreme Court to hold the death penalty unconstitutional.

A Path to Repeal in Oregon

          Members of the OADP board of directors and the OADP AdvisoryElection Day Nov 2016 Council have recently laid out a strategy for repeal in Oregon. This plan was first announced publicly at our Ecumenical Banquet in Portland on October 16th and was received with robust applause. From the date of this publication, we have an outline for the next 35 months and 8 days. We expect to have a ballot measure ready for the general election on November 8, 2016.
            In order to be successful in this journey there are many important tasks to be accomplished. There is a great need to increase the number of active members of OADP to engage in this work. We are reaching out to all current members and future members to consider stepping up in your commitments to become active or more active. Our all-volunteer cadre of dedicated workers has helped us grow significantly over the past 35 months. This call puts us at the mid-point of our journey to success…..repeal of the death penalty in Oregon.
            The strategy includes (1) continue our educational campaign and grow our “grassroots” support; (2) follow the May primary and November general elections closely to see how the legislature will change; poll current members and new 2015 members regarding their positions on the death penalty; (3) seek a legislative referral in the 2015 legislative session; and wage a successful campaign over the 16-18 months leading up to November 2016.
            The strategy is simple enough, but should not be portrayed as anything but a lot of work to accomplish. We need you and many hundreds of like-minded people to become more active in order to convince thousands of Oregon voters that there are better alternatives than having a death penalty. This is a call for all of you reading this newsletter to consider stepping up your commitment to create a better Oregon. We have a host of things you can consider doing. From suggesting and helping stage an event, to writing letters to your legislators, to making a donation pledge and many more. Over the next few months we will be sending out notices of things to do and we are always eager to hear your suggestions on things to consider doing.
            Thirty- five months seems like a long time, but it will pass swiftly enough, each month having goals and landmarks of progress. Please be with us! Contact us now, make your suggestions for growth, make your commitment to our success, select some tasks that you would like to volunteer for and consider the request for donations outlined later in this newsletter. 
     

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Another Oregon Chief Justice Speaks Up
 
                The following op-ed piece from retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Edwin Peterson was published on OregonLive on October 23.
            In 1978 and 1984, along with most Oregon voters,  I voted for Edwin J. Petersonand supported the death penalty initiative that reinstated the death penalty in Oregon. Today I don’t. Oregon’s death penalty system is dysfunctional, expensive,  unworkable and unfair. Even supporters of the death penalty–I was one–should vote to end the Dickensonian system we have in Oregon.          
            Dysfunctional. I was appointed to the Supreme Court of Oregon in 1979. In that same year John Wayne Quinn was sentenced to death in an Oregon trial court. In 1981, on Quinn’s appeal, the Oregon Supreme Court held that the 1978 law was unconstitutional. Quinn’s conviction was reversed. On remand he was sentenced to life in prison.
            The Quinn decision required an amendment to Oregon’s death penalty  law, which, as a citizen, I again voted for in 1984.
            Since the restoration of the Oregon death penalty in 1978, 65 persons have been sentenced to death. Some of the convictions have been reversed. Since 1978, not one of those 65  persons has been involuntarily executed. (Two "volunteers" gave up their appeals and were executed.) Today there are 37 persons on Death Row.  Those  on Death Row, on average, have been there for over 15 years.  None of the appeal rights of the 37 persons on Death Row have been exhausted. None! And it will be years before their appeals are exhausted.
            Unworkable. Procedurally, the Oregon death penalty system is unworkable. The rules are continually changing. Randy Guzek’s case is one example. In 1988, Guzek was convicted of murdering a couple in Terrebonne, Oregon. He was sentenced to death. Since 1988, Guzek has had four appeals to the Supreme Court of Oregon, three reversals of his death penalty sentences, and four sentences to die. Today, 25 years from the date of his first conviction in 1988, Guzek’s fourth appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court is pending. He has been on Death Row for 24 years. He is still on Step One of his nine possible appeals, nowhere close to the end of his possible appeals.
            Expensive. Guzek’s case alone had cost the taxpayers of Oregon $2.2 million by 2009.  It has been estimated that the appeal process takes from 25 to 50 years, at a total cost per case of $10 million. Changes of the death penalty law by court decisions and legislative acts  have led to more appeals.
            Some might argue that our death penalty system is a fair employment bill for death penalty lawyers. The average cost of defending a death penalty case is $438,651.
            Under current law, an Oregon defendant sentenced to death has no fewer than nine separate appeals. The reversal rate is high.  Not one of the 37 persons on Death Row has yet exhausted his appeal rights! There is little reason to believe that any defendant now on Oregon’s Death Row will ever be executed.   We taxpayers pay nearly all of the expenses of prosecuting and defending death-penalty cases. A New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission concluded that the state would save $1.3 million per prisoner in incarceration costs if the death penalty were abolished and a life-without-possibility-of-parole system implemented. Might not the money be better spent on better things?
             
Unfair. The same crime may be treated differently based on the county in which the crime takes place. One district attorney, heralded as being “tough on crime,” may pursue a death penalty, while another believes  that life in prison without parole provides adequate punishment and safety to the citizens. With 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 142 exonerations of people awaiting execution, persons found innocent of the crimes of which  they were convicted. The majority of Oregon death penalty convictions have been reversed. Does this  provide confidence in the system?
            We have an inefficient, ineffective, dysfunctional system. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the system. Eighteen states have repealed their death penalty laws (Maryland most recently, in 2013).
            Let’s admit it. Our system has failed.  Recognize it and repeal Oregon’s death penalty.

Edwin J. Peterson served on the Supreme Court of Oregon from 1979 to 1994, and was Chief Justice from 1983 to 1991.

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From the Board chair...

Dear Friends and Supporters,Ron Steiner
            The “pathway to success” for repeal of the Oregon death penalty is well defined. The 35-month journey will have many twists and turns as we go along, but the full intention is to “stay the course.”  Preparing the way to the final leg of the journey—a public campaign to get out the vote—will be very expensive. We are going to need the financial support of as many individuals, organizations, foundations that fund criminal and social justice efforts, and faith communities, as possible. Along the way OADP needs to hire staff to take on some of the load that has been carried by an all-volunteer cadre of dedicated supporters, Advisory Council members and our “working” board of directors who have allowed for dramatic growth in the past two years.
            This year, we are asking you to consider making a three-year pledge that will support our growing activities during the years leading to the November 8, 2016, repeal vote. If you make your first-year donation before January 1 and itemize, you can take a charitable deduction on your 2013 tax return. You can then fulfill your pledge for 2015 and 2016 during or before each January.  You can pledge the same amount for each year or increase your donations as you see our progress getting us closer to our goal. Click here for a pledge form that you can print and mail with your first-year contribution.
            If you prefer to break your annual donation into monthly payments, consider setting up an automatic withdrawal from your credit card or bank account through PayPal. Click here to set up your monthly donation at the OADP website. This pledge is an “on your honor” pledge, not a contract. Therefore if your circumstances change and you cannot fulfill your pledge it is understood. Also, if you win the Oregon lottery, do not be bound by the amount of your original pledge.
            We deeply appreciate the financial support you have provided that has got us to this point. Consistent grassroots giving is very important as we approach foundations, including several that invest in repeal work across the country.  We need to show them that our in-state supporters are 100% with us. Your board of directors has already pledged to be 100% on board.
            While the amount of each donation is important, of equal importance is the consistency of funding over the 2014-2016 period.  Please help us with a three-year commitment to either annual or monthly donations. Use the forms linked here to get started. Of course, any donation of any size is most welcome, will be very much appreciated, and will help further our efforts to achieve repeal. If you have questions, suggestions or additional sources of potential funding to recommend, please do not to hesitate to call me directly at 503-990-7060 or reply by email to this newsletter.
            The need is now!!!  The growth of our organization is real. And, our chances of success are enhanced with every donation, every event, every conversation you have to encourage family and friends to join us on this journey to a better Oregon…..a state without the death penalty.

Cordially,

Ron Steiner, OADP Board chair

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Events  

            As noted in our lead story, OADP is deeply invested in the education of voters on all of the facts, figures and issues surrounding the death penalty. Our work follows the lead of Governor Kitzhaber when he called for the “long-overdue discussion about the death penalty in Oregon.”
            A very important part of the educational efforts are the events that OADP is staging and participating in. It is vital that we continue to increase the number of such opportunities in order to build our base and share the information that voters will need when it comes to vote for repeal. When the facts are known, the death penalty is very difficult to defend.
            During the months of October and November, OADP staged or participated in a dozen events in Salem, Portland, Pendleton, Keizer, McMinnville and Corvallis.

Ecumenical dinner table

            The largest event was the Ecumenical Banquet, co-sponsored with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, in Portland on October 16th.  The impressive line-up of fifteen faith leaders, all making profound statements against the death penalty, was brilliant. All of these brief statements were recorded on video and are now available at our website and across the internet. Please feel free to share them through any social media you use.
            With the success of the faith community banquet, we are now in the planning stages of replicating the effort in Bend, Eugene, Medford, Ashland, Corvallis and McMinnville. Local pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis and religious teachers will present their faiths’ views for supporters and the curious during the first quarter of 2014. OADP will send out bulletins when the dates are set. If you live in one of these towns and would like to volunteer to help stage these events, please call (503) 990-7060.
            It will continue to be a priority for OADP to have as many opportunities to engage citizens in this “discussion” of the death penalty as possible. Suggestions are most welcome from our supporters throughout the state. If you belong to a group, service club, faith community, or organization that has programs, we have resources. If supporters have an idea for staging an event, we want to know about it and help in making it happen. We have a goal of having at least eight events each month during 2014, in order to continue the growth of our membership and support for repeal. Large or small, each opportunity to talk about the death penalty is an opportunity to win votes for repeal on November 8, 2016.

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New Advisory Council Members

            The OADP Advisory Council has been a very important part of the organization’s growth over the past two years. Members have been very helpful in providing counsel, offering networking opportunities and volunteering their skills and time. Two new members have joined the Council in the past month, bringing the current number to 92.
            Bob Delong, after a long and distinguished career as City Manager in Oakridge, Redmond, Astoria, Puyallup (WA) and Salem, is retired and living in the Capitol city. In joining the Advisory Council, he states that “he has a deep-seated opposition to the death penalty and is eager to put some of his communications skills and management experience to good use as an OADP volunteer worker.”
            The second new member is Anne Shihadeh, from Tigard. Anne has an impressive resume in workers compensation, disability management and as an occupational, safety and health specialist.  She also has considerable volunteer experience with the Center for Intercultural Organizing, the Muslim Educational Trust, Good Neighbor House, Oregon CURE and Partnership for Safety & Justice.
            Welcome to both Bob and Anne.

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Mark Baker, CPA, Joins OADP Board of Directors

            Mark Baker, partner in the Salem accounting firm of Hoots,Mark Baker
Baker & Wiley, recently joined the OADP board of directors. Mark, licensed as a certified public accountant in 1981, performs accounting and management advisory services for numerous businesses and non-profit organizations.
            When elected to the board, Mark immediately was voted to the position of Treasurer, replacing Clarence Pugh, who recently moved to Seattle. His financial expertise and passion for social justice will be great attributes as we travel the journey to repeal in Oregon.
            Many thanks to Clarence and Kathy, for so many years of service to OADP. They will remain active on the OADP Advisory Council.

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Another Death Row Exoneration

Missouri inmate is 143rd since 1973; Story courtesy of DPIC

            Washington D.C. - On October 30, the Death Penalty InformationReginald Griffin and mother Center announced that Reginald Griffin of Missouri is the latest former death row inmate to be added to its Innocence List. On October 25, murder charges against Griffin were dismissed, making him the 143rd inmate to be exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973, according to DPIC.
            He is the first person exonerated in 2013 and the fourth in Missouri since 1999. He had been sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of James Bausley, a fellow inmate at the Moberly Correctional Center in Moberly, Missouri.
            “The risk of wrongful conviction and of executing the innocent continues to be a significant part of the capital punishment system,” said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “For every nine executions, we find one person on death row who is innocent. The system is flawed and broken.”
            No physical evidence implicated Griffin of the murder, and evidence that was uncovered later revealed that guards had confiscated a sharpened screwdriver from another inmate, Jeffrey Smith, as he was leaving the area where the stabbing occurred.
            Two other prisoners, Doyle Franks and Arbary Jackson, were also charged with the murder, but Griffin was the only one sentenced to death. Both Franks and Jackson consistently claimed that Smith was the third person involved in the stabbing. Griffin’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of two prisoners who benefitted from their cooperation with the prosecution. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned Griffin’s conviction in 2011.
            Griffin is the fourth inmate sentenced to death and subsequently exonerated in Missouri. The other three men are Clarence Dexter (exonerated in 1999), Eric Clemmons (exonerated in 2000), and Joe Amrine (exonerated in 2003). 

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The Conservative Viewpoint: 
Kansan Chase Blasi Advocates for Repeal

 
Story courtesy of Wichita Eagle, Nov. 1, 2013.

            As a lifelong Republican, I am encouraged to see the progressChase Blasi that we are making in Kansas. This past legislative session, the Legislature passed important measures to make our state more competitive and protect basic constitutional rights.
            Of course, there always is more work to do. I hope Republicans also will show leadership on an important issue likely to be debated next session – repeal of the death penalty.
            There is an unfortunate misperception that if you are conservative you must favor the death penalty. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you truly study the death penalty, it becomes clear that there is nothing conservative about it.
            Let’s be honest about what the death penalty is: an ineffective government program that wastes millions in taxpayer dollars. The death penalty is an awesome power to entrust to government, especially given its long track record of errors. If the death penalty actually reduced crime, perhaps there would be an argument for keeping it. But that isn’t the case. Year after year, states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it.
            We, the taxpayers, end up footing the bill for this ineffective system. Death penalty cases are a seemingly endless legal process involving lengthy trials and appeals, which prove incredibly costly. For instance, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit found that capital cases ending in the death penalty are 70 percent more expensive than similar murder cases where the death penalty is not sought.
            Some call for shortening the legal process in capital cases as a way to make the death penalty cheaper, but that is a risky solution. More than 140 individuals in the United States have been sentenced to death and later released, sometimes decades later, after evidence emerged proving that they were wrongfully convicted. In such an imperfect system, shortening the legal process only will increase the risk of executing the wrong person.
            Repeal of the death penalty ensures that our government never will make the mistake of executing an innocent life. For this reason, repeal of the death penalty is an important step for promoting a culture of life. The death penalty is simply not necessary to protect life, given that there are alternatives such as life in prison without parole available to keep society secure.
            As conservatives work to protect life, no argument is more powerful for our efforts than advocating a consistent life ethic – that is, opposing all threats to life from conception to natural death. Kansas has been a leader in passing measures to protect the unborn. The state now also has the opportunity to be a leader in ending another threat to life, capital punishment. Repealing the death penalty next year would send a strong statement that Kansas is committed to a consistent life ethic.
It is because of – not in spite of – conservative principles that our elected officials have strong reason to end Kansas’ broken death penalty. Such a move will help conservatives, especially in our outreach to young people. After all, there are few values that appeal to young people more than consistency.
            If we, as conservatives, are serious about cutting costs and promoting a culture of life, then our position on the death penalty is a no-brainer. Repeal it.

Chase Blasi is president of the Colwich City Council and on the board of the Kansas Young Republicans.

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Retired President Speaks Up

Story courtesy of DPIC

            Former President Jimmy Carter spoke recently about the deathJimmy Carter penalty in an interview with The Guardian in advance of his appearance at the American Bar Association's symposium on capital punishment in Atlanta on November 12. [Details of the symposium available here.] As governor of Georgia, Carter signed the revised death penalty law that the Supreme Court upheld in Gregg v. Georgia (1976), but he told the paper, "In complete honesty, when I was governor I was not nearly as concerned about the unfairness of the application of the death penalty as I am now. I know much more now. I was looking at it from a much more parochial point of view – I didn’t see the injustice of it as I do now." He said he is particularly concerned about the arbitrariness of death sentences, “In America today, if you have a good attorney you can avoid the death penalty; if you are white you can avoid it; if your victim was a racial minority you can avoid it. But if you are very poor or mentally deficient, or the victim is white, that’s the way you get sentenced to death.” Carter said the Supreme Court should put a hold on executions and reconsider the death penalty: “It’s time for the Supreme Court to look at the totality of the death penalty once again. My preference would be for the court to rule that it is cruel and unusual punishment, which would make it prohibitive under the US constitution.”

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