NEW VOICES: Former Warden, Victim Advocate, and Governor Urge Repeal in Oregon

On February 26, the House Judiciary Committee in Oregon held a hearing on repealing the death penalty. Among those testifying was Frank Thompson, a former superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary, who oversaw the state’s last two executions. Thompson told the committee the death penalty does not deter crime, fails to make the public safer, and places prison workers in an untenable position: “Asking decent men and women to participate in the name of a failed public policy that takes human life is indefensible and rises to a level of immorality.” Also recommending repeal was Aba Gayle (pictured), an Oregon resident whose daughter was murdered in 1980. Gayle testified that those in her situation will never experience closure and executing the killer would not honor her daughter’s life. She said, “Do not tarnish the memory of my beautiful child with another senseless killing.” The bill under consideration was introduced after Governor John Kitzhaber announced that no executions would occur during his tenure because the death penalty was a failed system. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Kitzhaber expressed concerns about “evidence of wrongful convictions, the unequal application of the law and the expense of the process.” He concluded, “It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach.”  Read full text of the Governor's letter.

Only one witness spoke in favor of the death penalty--Terri Hakim, whose husband was killed in 2008 while serving as a police officer. She said repealing the death penalty "is only enabling prisoners with more rights" than their victims.

(H. Jung, "Oregon death penalty 'indefensible,' says man who last carried it out," Oregonian, February 26, 2013).  See Victims, New Voices, and Recent Legislative Activity.