Unit 1012 awards the Rayner Goddard Act of Courage Award to Joshua Marquis, Clatsop County district attorney from Oregon for defending the death penalty.
INTERNET SOURCE: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/10/eliminate_the_death_penalty_an.html
Eliminate the death penalty, and you'll end up with killers back on the streets (OPINION)
on October 03, 2015 at 2:00 PM, updated October 03, 2015 at 2:01 PM
By Joshua Marquis
The Oregonian editorial board has changed its mind on the death penalty at least four times in the last 20 years. Even more frequently than Oregon voters. In the 20th century, Oregonians have voted five times to either abolish or restore capital punishment. The last two times, in 1977 and 1984, the vote was to restore the penalty.
If there is, in fact, a vote, it will be interesting to see how much of the "abolition" money comes from billionaires opposing the death penalty (both right and left wing ones). First, they are trying — and sometimes succeeding — in buying elections in states in which they do not live. Millions of dollars in political advertising can sell any number of urban myths as true. More importantly, the families of the wealthy are usually not the victims of murder. The victims are poor children, women and people of color.
Second, name a single person sentenced to death since Oregon reinstituted the death penalty who was later found to be innocent. That number is zero. Yet, the myth persists that we have executed the innocent.
Opponents of the death penalty have made it clear that once that battle is won, their next target will be attacking life without parole (LWOP) arguing that it violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. There have already been some court decisions forbidding LWOP for murder in other states.
To think that taking the rarely sought death penalty off the table will save buckets of money is naive at best.
People like Ward Weaver pled guilty to avoid the death penalty. If that possibility had not been there, the trials to avoid LWOP would be just as long, just as expensive, just as draining for the victims' survivors.
Anyone who watches murder cases progress knows that a person who isn't facing the death penalty (he might, for example have been extradited from Mexico, which will only extradite on agreement the killer not face death) has just as much incentive to tap the enormous tax-paid public defense system, which generally offers excellent, if expensive, representation. In order to get the chance for parole (the next penalty down from LWOP), the defense will have at least two experienced defense lawyers, investigators, mitigation specialists, psychologists and jury consultants. Nobody wants to spend their life in prison. In the criminal justice system, where there's life, there is always hope for parole.
For anyone who thinks a mass commutation or changing the Constitution to forbid capital punishment means former death row murderers will never leave prison: Dream on. Apart from the fact that in the modern era Oregon's first death row inmate escaped from prison, other murderers already doing life killed again in prison. Without a death penalty and the announced elimination of the Intensive Management Unit (it had been called "the prison within the prison" for particularly hard cases), there is very little disincentive for someone who has shown a propensity to kill to change his ways.
Beyond that, eight of the men on death row committed their murders before LWOP was made law. We really have no idea if the courts will even uphold LWOP as it has only existed for 25 years in Oregon. For those men, abolition of Oregon's death penalty means two things will happen for those inmates: First, since a punishment cannot be imposed ex post facto under constitutional law, those inmates will get the next harshest sentence available. Consequently, a parole board hearing will be likely and victims' families will have to listen to their loved ones' killers plead for freedom. Second, the minimum sentence before 1990 was 30 years, so a quarter of those on death row could walk out of prison. If you think that's impossible, ask the scores of victims of murderers who were slaughtered across America after their killers were legally released from a so-called "life sentence."
Psychologists tell us that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This doesn't just apply to people; it also applies to institutions. Until Measure 11 ensured that murderers sentenced to life served at least 25 years, the average time served in Oregon for a "life sentence" for murder was eight years.
Joshua Marquis, Clatsop County district attorney since 1994, has both prosecuted and defended capital murder cases.