Oregon's Governor's Last Act of Political Sabotage

(AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

The timing of Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s announcement on the death penalty is quite, ah, interesting. The message it sends is even more damning.

The governor just abolished the death penalty by fiat. She didn’t ask voters. She didn’t talk to victims. One of her last acts as governor was a throat strike to victims.


Though Kate Brown has spent her years in office winnowing down the number of death row inmates from 34 to 17 and releasing violent murderers and rapists from prison, she chose this week to abolish the death penalty entirely in Oregon and “dismantle” a death chamber in Oregon that hasn’t been used in decades. And here’s why: she’s bugging out of office in mere days and handing over this time bomb to the newest woke governor to deal with. She did all of it without the consent of Oregon voters.

In her Twitter announcement — yes, that’s how she announced the unprecedented and controversial move — Brown spewed a giant word salad saying several things at once.

  • Oregon’s justice is unfair.
  • Death penalties don’t work.
  • The state shouldn’t kill people.
  • Prison rehabilitates.
  • Death row prisoners whose sentences I’m commuting haven’t been rehabilitated.
  • We don’t use it.
  • It’s dysfunctional because we don’t use it.
  • The death penalty does not make us safer.

Stone-cold killer Gary Haugen is among those presumably being put back into general population since death row has been abolished. He was imprisoned after he murdered his girlfriend’s mom and then given a death sentence when he killed another inmate. He wanted to be executed in 2011 when it was scheduled, but Oregon’s woke governor told him no; they’d keep him alive to show how tolerant they were, so there. Judges the governor appointed agreed to keep him alive.


Bruce and Joshua Turnidge blew up a bank in Woodburn, Ore. in 2008, killing two police officers and nearly killing a third. Brown commuted their sentences to life without parole — that is, until the next woke governor releases them.

The news didn’t go over well with John Mikkola, a retired Woodburn police sergeant, who told KOIN6 News, “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.” He suggested that the governor talk to the victim’s families before deciding to commute their sentences.

Oregon voters have never voted to get rid of the death penalty. Indeed, they voted for it again in 1984. Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp told KOIN6 News that he must have missed the part where voters repealed it.

“Did the people of Oregon vote to end the death penalty? I don’t recall that happening,” he said. “This is another example of the Governor and the Democrats not abiding by the wishes of Oregonians. Even in the final days of her term, Brown continues to disrespect victims of the most violent crimes.”

Reasonable people can disagree on the death penalty. Brown said it was immoral for the government to take a life, and there’s a case to be made for that, but sometimes it’s wise to have the specter of the death penalty to keep some bad actors more in line. Indeed, like it or not, the death-penalty-as-bargaining-chip makes prosecutors’ jobs easier when negotiating plea deals. Ask them.


Brown claims that the death penalty is more expensive than keeping murderers in prison for life and called it an “irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction; is wasteful of taxpayer dollars; does not make communities safer; and cannot be and never has been administered fairly and equitably.”

Brown damned the entire justice system in Oregon, which she did not improve during her years as governor. Brown made it easier for criminals to operate, which presumably is more “equitable” by her lights. Besides releasing other violent criminals and now commuting death row sentences, she refused to crack down on political violence, arsons, and attacks in Portland.

She stood mute as local prosecutors refused to punish them and let out killers, rapists, and other violent felons to prey upon a new set of Oregonians. She made it easier for the cycle of violence to fester by doing nothing to fight against a measure to decriminalize hard drugs and did nothing to root out drug dens throughout her state’s most populous cities. In other words, she made things far worse, not better.

Yet, at the same time, Brown claimed that the hated retributive justice resulted in “extraordinary growth and rehabilitation” for other killers and rapists she released. She made communities less safe by previously releasing prisoners, while at the same time claiming that keeping death row “does not make communities safer.”


Brown made one true observation. “It is an irreversible punishment,” she said. True. Any victim’s family member could have given her the bill of particulars on how their lives have been crushed by these evil men. The upside is that, if she were to have allowed their executions to go forward, the unrepentant murderers would no longer poison society.

But she didn’t want to talk to the victims out of her false sense of nobility because that would make her look like the tyrant she is. For these reasons, Kate Brown pulled this act of political sabotage while on her way out of office and, naturally, without consulting voters.


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