Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated the Oregon county where a judge ruled in March that Gov. Brown could not expand the parole board’s authority. This story has since been updated with the correct county.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Court of Appeals sided with Gov. Kate Brown Wednesday regarding her legal right to “transfer” her commutation power to the parole board.
KOIN 6 News has been leading the coverage of how the governor gave the parole board a list of 73 inmates convicted as juveniles of mostly violent crimes, who could apply for an early release.
Multiple victims and two district attorneys sued to block it, while a Marion County judge ruled in March that Brown couldn’t expand the parole board’s authority.
But the appeals court overturned the lower court ruling, saying, in part, “…we can find no evidence that the Oregon legislature has ever sought to constrain the broad constitutional power of Oregon governors to grant clemency…”
Gov. Brown’s office released a statement to KOIN 6 News about the appeals court’s decision on Wednesday afternoon:
“Today’s decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals validated across the board that Governor Brown has acted within her constitutional authority to grant clemency throughout her time in office.
“We are a state and a nation of second chances—sentencing children to life sentences and near-life sentences without a second chance is not the kind of justice that most Oregonians believe in. That is why Governor Brown has used her clemency powers to allow certain teenagers an opportunity to make their case and demonstrate their capacity for growth, change, and rehabilitation in front of the Parole Board. The Parole Board—an independent body of experts—makes the final decision after hearing the case and weighing risk assessments; it is the Parole Board who determines whether a person has been held accountable and can be safely released into the community, while also taking into consideration the voices of victims and survivors.
“We know that, when given the right support, many young people are worthy of redemption and can turn their lives around and become contributing members of society. We also know that many young people who commit crimes and are given life or near-life sentences are disproportionately youth of color. Sending teenagers to prison without a second chance has never been fair or equitable, and it has long contradicted what we know about adolescent brain development.”
KOIN 6 is working to learn whether the decision will be appealed to the state supreme court.