ACLU Commends Oregon Governor for Commuting State’s Death Row

December 13, 2022 7:30 pm

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has commuted the state’s death row, using her power of clemency to spare 17 people from being executed by the state. Oregon has had a moratorium on executions since 2011.

Former and current governors from both parties have used their clemency powers to commute the death rows of their state, including Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), Gov. George Ryan (R-Illinois), and Gov. Jon Corzine (D-New Jersey).

The American Civil Liberties Union has long opposed the death penalty as a racist, arbitrary, and unconstitutional punishment, and through its Redemption Campaign, the ACLU has championed the power of executive clemency to correct injustices in the criminal legal system.

The following statements can be attributed as noted:

Cynthia W. Roseberry, acting director of the ACLU’s Justice Division:

“Executives literally have power over redemption for those they govern. We applaud Gov. Brown for choosing redemption and for choosing mercy by categorically commuting people on Oregon’s death row.

“There is a long tradition of governors commuting the sentences of those on death row in their states — it is a powerful illustration of the use of categorical clemency to right previously irreversible errors of the criminal legal system. Governors have the power to categorically pardon or commute unjustifiably harsh sentences and give people a second chance.”

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project:

“If we want to end mass incarceration, we must end the death penalty. The death penalty —rooted in the history of racial violence in the United States — normalizes harsh punishments and perpetuates racial discrimination in the criminal legal system.

“The death penalty in America is a colossal and well-documented failure: it is arbitrary in its application, it is racist, it is costly, it doesn’t have a deterrent effect, it is cruel, it cannot protect innocent people from execution, and it is applied unjustly to people with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities. It is a violation of the Constitution and a moral stain on our country.

“We thank Gov. Brown for her actions today. She has chosen a path that allows for redemption in Oregon. This is an important step forward to ending the death penalty in Oregon and the nation.”

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