No special session to ‘fix’ Oregon’s death penalty law, says Gov. Kate Brown

No special session to ‘fix’ Oregon’s death penalty law, says Gov. Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday announced that she would not call a special session to address controversy over the state’s new aggravated murder statute that significantly narrows the crimes that could bring the death penalty in Oregon.

“While it is clear there is a misunderstanding regarding the intent of the words in Senate Bill 1013, it is also clear there is not sufficient support for a special session to pass a fix," she said in a statement issued by her office.

She noted that she previously had said she would call a session if “stakeholders" and lawmakers supported one.
“That has not been achieved,” she said. “I cannot justify the additional cost and time a special session requires without that support.”

While the new law doesn’t reverse the convictions or sentences for anyone on death row, the legal analysis underscores a potential and controversial outcome.

Prosecutors, some lawmakers and crime victims had pressed Brown to call a special session to ensure that the aggravated murder law she signed last month would not impact old death penalty cases.

The new law narrows the definition of aggravated murder -- the only crime in Oregon eligible for a death sentence. Aggravated murder is now limited to defendants who kill two or more people as an act of organized terrorism; kill a child younger than 14 intentionally and with premeditation; kill another person while locked in jail or prison for a previous murder; or kill a police, correctional or probation officer.

A recent opinion by the Oregon Department of Justice concluded that the new law applies to death penalty convictions and sentences that have been overturned, as well as pending cases. That matters because most of those defendants’ crimes no longer fall within the new aggravated murder definition, so if they’re retried or resentenced, they would no longer be eligible for the death penalty.

Updated 5:06 PM; Today 4:45 PM Sep 18 2019
By Noelle Crombie | The OregonianOregonLive


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