PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A major decision now made by outgoing Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday, commuting the death sentences of 17 people to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Gov. Brown says after the move, no one will be on death row in Oregon. While many are outraged at the decision, the chances are low that any of them would have ever been executed as the state has not held an execution in 25 years.
With just weeks left in office, one of the governor’s final executive orders impacts the cases of more than a dozen of the state’s most notorious convicted murderers and subsequently, their victims and families.
“I think it’s important that you always talk to the victims and people that were involved in these crimes. You have to see it from their perspective and how it changed so many lives,” said John Mikkola, a retired Woodburn police sergeant who responded to the 2008 bank bombing, which resulted in the death penalty sentences for Bruce and Joshua Turnidge. “There are some human beings that are so bad, they don’t even deserve to be on this earth … Someone has to deal with these people, doctors, dentists, for the rest of their lives, prison guards, people have to deal with them. Even some of the prisoners shouldn’t have to deal with them.”
Some of the most notable sentences being commuted include Christian Longo — convicted of murdering his wife and three kids in 2002 and later captured in Mexico.
“Every murder is incredibly devastating to everyone involved, particularly, the murder victim’s family,” added Joshua Marquis, a retired district attorney who served more than two decades in Astoria.
Another on the list is Gary Haugen, originally sent to prison for killing his girlfriend’s mother, who was sentenced to death after killing another inmate. He was set to be executed in December 2011 when then-Governor Kitzhaber issued a moratorium on executions just weeks before. While he fought for the right for his execution to move forward, the Oregon Supreme Court ultimately decided with the governor.
In a statement on Twitter announcing the commutations, Gov. Brown said, “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.”
The death penalty has had a back-and-forth history for decades, reinstated and repealed multiple times in Oregon since the early 1900s. The governor’s executive order takes effect Wednesday.