Oregon Supreme Court Overturns Death Sentence in Decision that Could Clear the State’s Entire Death Row

Oct 8 2021  In a decision that advocates say could clear the state’s death row, the Oregon Supreme Court (justices pictured) has overturned death-row prisoner David Ray Bartol’s death sentence because the crime he committed is no longer statutorily eligible for the death penalty. In 2019, the Oregon state legislature passed a new law that narrowly limits the crimes for which the death penalty may be imposed. The court on October 7, 2021 held without dissent that Bartol’s sentence violated the prohibition on “disproportionate punishments” contained in Article I, section 16 of the Oregon Constitution because his offense had been reclassified as non-capital. In her opinion for the court, Justice Rebecca Duncan wrote: “The enactment of SB 1013 [the new law] reflects a legislative determination that, regardless of when it was committed, the conduct that had constituted ‘aggravated murder’ does not fall within the narrow category of conduct for which the death penalty is appropriate. Given that determination, we conclude that, although the legislature did not make SB 1013 retroactive as to sentences imposed before its effective date, maintaining defendant’s death sentence would violate Article I, section 16.”  Read More




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