Oregon is One of 26 States that Do Not Use Death Penalty

Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2014

Contact: Ron Steiner at (503) 375-9218 or rsteiner@swcp.com

OREGON IS ONE OF 26 STATES THAT DO NOT USE DEATH PENALTY

(SALEM, Oregon) Death sentences in Oregon declined in 2014, with only one new death sentence this year. This single sentence represents a 42% decline over the last ten years.  According to the 2014 Death Penalty report, issued today by the Death Penalty Information Center, in Washington DC, nationwide, there were 72 new death sentences in 2014, a 40-year low. Other headlines in the DPIC report were that 35 executions were carried out in 2014, the lowest number in 20 years. Only seven states had any executions, with Texas, Missouri, and Florida responsible for the vast majority (83%). Oregon has had 2 executions in the past 52 years, both of prisoners who voluntarily gave up their appeals.

See the full DPIC report at http://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/2014YrEnd.pdf

Death Sentences on the DeclineOregon is one of 26 states that have stopped using the death penalty, in law or in practice.  18 states do not permit the death penalty and another 8 states have either had no executions, no new death sentences, or neither, in the past 10 years (WY, KS, CO, NH, PA, OR, NE and MT).  

Jeff Ellis, Capital Resource Counsel, said, “Oregon prosecutors have been increasingly wary of seeking a death sentence and when they do Oregon juries have been less willing to impose a death sentence amid concerns about mental illness and disability, insufficient safeguards against executing an innocent person, and the high cost of seeking the death penalty.  In the decade from 1995-2004 there were 19 new death sentences, but in the most recent decade from 2005-2014, there were just 11, and only one in the past 3 years.”

Regarding this new report, Frank Thompson, former Superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary said, “It has been over 17 years since Oregon executed an inmate, yet we continue to support having a death penalty that wastes millions of taxpayer dollars annually. We now have a moratorium on executions in Oregon and we should make that permanent by replacing the death penalty with a better public policy and work on the root causes of violence and murder in our culture with the savings that will be derived from that change.” 

Death Penalty Exonerations in 2014

The DPIC Report also points out that seven additional people were exonerated from death rows across the country in 2014, highlighting the risk of wrongful convictions in capital cases. 150 innocent people have now been exonerated from death row nationwide.  The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 1 out of every 25 people currently on death row is innocent.

Calling on Oregon to take action, Ron Steiner, Board Chair of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP), said, “The map of the United States is changing and Oregon is a prime example. We have a death penalty that we do not use. We have alternatives that work to keep the public safe and programs that truly address the causes of violent crime and murder. We need to get rid of the very expensive death penalty and redirect those dollars to support law enforcement, address mental illness and provide services for murder victim family members.”

Seven organizations in Oregon are working together to end the death penalty and replace it with life without parole: ACLU of Oregon, Amnesty International USA, Oregon chapter, Capital Resource Center, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Oregon Justice Resource Center, and Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.  

Many more organizations support repealing and replacing Oregon’s death penalty.  For a full list, go to OADP’s website at: http://www.oadp.org/supporters/secular-organizations

To speak with Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center about national death penalty trends, please contact Anne Holsinger at 202-289-4022 or aholsinger@deathpenaltyinfo.org

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