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Bi Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Commutes All Death Sentences

Kate Brown

Brown, the nation's first out bisexual governor, changed the sentences to life in prison without parole.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has commuted the death sentences of all 17 prisoners who have received the sentence in the state and directed that Oregon's execution chamber be dismantled. Their sentences will now be life in prison without possibility of parole.

"I have long believed that justice is not advanced by taking a life, and the state should not be in the business of executing people -- even if a terrible crime placed them in prison," Brown, the nation's first out bisexual governor, said in a press release.

"Since taking office in 2015, I have continued Oregon's moratorium on executions because the death penalty is both dysfunctional and immoral. Today I am commuting Oregon's death row so that we will no longer have anyone serving a sentence of death and facing execution in this state. This is a value that many Oregonians share.

"Unlike previous commutations I've granted to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation, this commutation is not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row. Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral. It is an irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction; is wasteful of taxpayer dollars; does not make communities safer; and cannot be and never has been administered fairly and equitably. My action today is consistent with the near abolition of the death penalty that has been achieved through SB 1013.

"I also recognize the pain and uncertainty victims experience as they wait for decades while individuals sit on death row -- especially in states with moratoriums on executions -- without resolution. My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases."

Brown, a Democrat, is ending her tenure as governor due to term limits. She became governor in 2015 when Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned; she had been secretary of state, and the person in that office succeeds the governor because Oregon has no lieutenant governor. She was then elected in a special election in 2016 and reelected in 2018.

Tina Kotek, a fellow Democrat and a lesbian, will succeed Brown in the new year, having won election in November. She and Maura Healey of Massachusetts will be the nation's first out lesbian governors. Kotek opposes the death penalty and said during her campaign that she would continue the moratorium on executions, started by Kitzhaber in 2011, The Oregonian reports. Even before the moratorium, Oregon had not executed anyone since 1997.

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