Oregon Candidate Briefing: Death Penalty
The most recent controversial application of capital punishment came on September 21, 2011 when Troy Davis died by lethal injection in Georgia's death chamber amid pleas for clemency from dignitaries like Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI. Throngs of supporters, most of whom believe there was a rush to trial, witness tampering, and racial implications involved in Davis' case from its inception, came out to protest the execution. However, with all appeals resolved, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a requested stay of execution in a short statement just hours before Davis's death (UPI, 2011). The state of Georgia carried out the will of the people, putting Troy Davis to death. As Americans , on the issue of capital punishment [legal term], known commonly as the death penalty, our opinions differ from that of our religious leaders and the majority of the world in upholding capital punishment. Support of capital punishment has a place in the judicial systems of 33 states of the union. In a yearend report on the death penalty in America, Dieter (2012), states that there are currently 3251 inmates on death row across the country. The next scheduled execution is that of Warren Hill on July 18, 2012 in Georgia. However, recent events and statistics demonstrate that support of the death penalty has dropped at a consistent pace over the past 10 years. Additionally, on April 25, 2012, Connecticut became the 5th state in the past 5 years to repeal its death penalty laws. In Oregon, Governor Kitzhaber (2011), placed a moratorium on executions for the remainder of his term as Governor saying, “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor" (2011). He asked Oregon citizens to seek a better solution which reflects the values of Oregonians, offers support to victims and their families, and is safe for our society. Local support for capital punishment in Oregon has been debated by legal professionals almost exclusively around the belief that it is a deterrent to crime, particularly aggravated murder, and that it supports victims' families. It is believed the public views the threat of capital punishment is itself a deterrent to the act of aggravated murder, thus protecting the greater population of humanity from being murdered. The reasoning is that few people will choose to pay for a crime with their lives. Opponents, however, stand on issues of racial inequity in sentencing, the possibility of innocents being executed, and the belief that capital punishment does not deter crime as it is intended to. In Oregon the time is right to take a consistent stand on capital punishment. Governor Kitzhaber referred to our state laws on capital punishment as, "a perversion of justice", wherein, the only two executions done in 27 years were done on volunteers, Harry Charles Moore (1997) and Douglas Franklin Wright (1996). Both men forfeited their appeals (Oregon Department of Corrections). History and Scope of Issue
Oregon's capital punishment laws regarding the death penalty stem from several U.S. Supreme Court cases as well as being patterned after Texas capital punishment laws. The Supreme Court's 1976 decision in the case of Gregg vs Georgia on the constitutionality of capital punishment paved the way for states to establish territorial laws, putting an end to most questions regarding its 8th Amendment constitutionality. The court cited the 5th Amendment, stating they believe the framers of the constitution did not eliminate the use of capital punishment and that depriving a person of life in permissible under the constitution. (Mott, n.d.). Other key cases include a previous 1972 decision in the case of Furman vs Georgia which effectively ended capital punishment in the U.S. when the court concluded that a disproportionate number of minorities were being...