Oregon bill would abolish almost all death penalty cases

Oregon bill would abolish almost all death penalty cases
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An Oregon bill filed on Monday would effectively abolish almost all use of capital punishment in the state.

The proposal in the Oregon state House would only allow the death penalty in cases where two or more people are killed in a terror attack, The Oregonian reported.

The state currently allows the death penalty for aggravated murder cases, which includes the killing of a child under 13, killing more than one person, killing a police officer on duty or killing someone during a rape or robbery.

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The bill would reclassify those crimes as first-degree murder and carry a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the newspaper noted.

The state voted to abolish capital punishment in 1914, but it was revived in 1964, the newspaper reported. The most recent vote on the keeping the death penalty was in the 1980s.

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) in 2011 issued a moratorium on the death penalty because he argued that it wasn’t handed down fairly. Current Gov. Kate Brown (D) in 2015 extended the temporary prohibition.

While there are currently 30 people on Oregon’s death row, the state has not executed an inmate since 1997. Only two men were executed in the past 50 years after waving their rights to appeals before their deaths, The Oregonian reports.

The measure’s chief sponsor, state Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), said that he believes people are “generally” supportive of eliminating the death penalty.

“I know it’s problematically applied and it’s extraordinarily expensive,” Greenlick said.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), an anti-death penalty organization, in 2016 found that the death penalty cost twice as much as those for life sentences in the state.

OJRC spokeswoman Alice Lundell told the newspaper that while the House bill is a positive step, it does not go as far as eliminating the death penalty entirely.

She has also called on the governor to commute the sentences of the inmates on death row.

Mary Elledge, an Oregon resident whose son Rob was murdered in 1986, opposes the state House bill.

She told The Oregonian that the simple threat of execution could be effective in murder cases, even though the state rarely executes inmates.

“The death penalty is a great bargaining tool,” she said.

There are currently 31 states where capital punishment is authorized, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Several states, including New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland, have abolished the death penalty in recent years through their state legislatures.

Several red states have made legislative pushes to end capital punishment in recent months.

The Wyoming state Senate last month voted down a bill that would have repealed the death penalty.