Oregon's Death Penalty: The Practical Reality
68 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2012 Last revised: 28 Feb 2017
Date Written: January 11, 2013
In November 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on the Oregon death penalty, calling it a system that is “compromised and inequitable” and “fails to meet basic standards of justice.” With Governor Kitzhaber’s refusal to allow any further executions under his watch, Oregon became one of the most recent states to withdraw from the death penalty. Indeed, Governor Kitzhaber’s statement recognized the practical and financial difficulties with, and ultimately the unjustness of, Oregon’s death-penalty system and, as such, called on Oregonians to discover a better alternative.
In this Article, Professor Kaplan examines Oregon’s lengthy and dysfunctional death-penalty system and the practical realities that make it so problematic. The discussion analyzes the history of Oregon’s death penalty; the serious and prevalent issue of wrongful convictions across the country (including Oregon); the extraordinary taxpayer costs associated with maintaining the death penalty in Oregon, where only two people — both of whom were volunteers — have been executed; and the changes in state law and death penalty jurisprudence that have slowed the administration of Oregon’s death penalty to render it ineffective. Professor Kaplan argues that, given these practical concerns, the Oregon death penalty, as it currently stands, is in serious need of examination from a public policy standpoint to ensure that cost, effectiveness, and time, are given proper consideration. To do this, she recommends that Governor Kitzhaber designate a non-partisan committee to study Oregon’s death penalty as it currently stands and report its findings. Professor Kaplan concludes that a comprehensive committee report on Oregon’s death penalty will ultimately allow Oregonians to decide whether to maintain or abolish the death penalty.
Keywords: death penalty
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