Lawmakers vote to substantially limit Oregon’s death penalty
SALEM — Oregon will substantially narrow the use of the death penalty by limiting qualifying crimes.
The Senate overwhelmingly voted Saturday to restrict capital punishment to apply to terrorist acts that kill two or more people, as well as to killing police officers and children younger than age 14. Lawmakers cannot introduce an outright ban on capital punishment without sending the measure to the ballot box.
Voters approved adding the death penalty to the Oregon Constitution in 1984.
Under current state law, aggravated murder covers crimes such as killing more than one person or killing someone during a rape or robbery. Senate Bill 1013 would reclassify those crimes as first-degree murder, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
House Majority Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, said during a committee vote Monday that the inclusion of law enforcement in the bill is “appropriate.”
Killing a police officer added back to crimes that could draw death penalty under amendment
Lawmakers made a last-minute change to the bill, adding the killing of police, corrections, parole and probation officers to the definition of aggravated murder.
Aliza Kaplan, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School and director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, has called the bill a compromise and a start to fixing what she called a broken system.
“While we might not all agree -- some people want more things, some people want less things -- we are at least discussing the issue and focusing on what is best for our state so we are not wasting money,” she said.
The measure now heads to the Gov. Kate Brown who extended a 2011 moratorium on using the death penalty.
The state Department of Corrections says there were 30 people on death row as of Jan. 1, 2019. Oregon’s last execution was of Harry Charles Moore in 1997. He was sentenced to death for murdering his father-in-law and mother-in-law.
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