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Oregon governor calls death penalty ‘immoral,’ commutes sentences for all 17 inmates on death row

<i>Jeff Chiu/AP/FILE</i><br/>Outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown
AP
Jeff Chiu/AP/FILE
Outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

By Paradise Afshar and Steve Almasy, CNN

Outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is commuting the sentences of all 17 people on death row to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, according to a news release Tuesday from her office.

“Since taking office in 2015, I have continued Oregon’s moratorium on executions because the death penalty is both dysfunctional and immoral. Today I am commuting Oregon’s death row so that we will no longer have anyone serving a sentence of death and facing execution in this state,” Brown, a Democrat, said.

Brown also talked about the long wait for victims and their families.

“I also recognize the pain and uncertainty victims experience as they wait for decades while individuals sit on death row — especially in states with moratoriums on executions — without resolution,” she said. “My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases.”

The governor will use executive clemency powers to commute the sentences, and the order is set to take effect Wednesday.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Oregon has executed two people since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 and the state reinstated the penalty in 1984. The most recent was in May 1997 when double murderer Harry Moore was put to death by lethal injection.

Brown succeeded Gov. John Kitzhaber, who in November 2011 granted a reprieve to a death row inmate and said no more executions would take place in Oregon. Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015. Brown, who was term-limited, will be replaced by Tina Kotek, a Democrat.

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