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11/23/2016 11:14:00 AM
Archbishop voices support for execution moratorium
Archbishop Alexander Sample
Archbishop Alexander Sample
Gov. Kate Brown
Gov. Kate Brown
Death penalty’s costs studied
A death sentence costs Oregon taxpayers four times as much as a sentence of life without parole. That’s one conclusion in a new detailed report issued by Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland and Jesuit-run Seattle University.

Some capital cases cost as much as $1 million more than aggravated murder cases not seeking a death sentence, the report said.

The academic study was paid for by the Oregon Justice Resource Center, which seeks to overturn the state’s death penalty law.

“We believe Oregonians need to know more about the death penalty system their taxes are funding,” says Alice Lundell, spokeswoman for the center.

Catholic opposition to the death penalty has grown since St. John Paul II said it was no longer necessary to protect society.  

The death penalty was reinstated in Oregon in 1984 and is one of three sentencing options for aggravated murder. The others are life without parole and life with the possibility of parole. Oregon’s district attorneys have discretion to pursue death sentences on a case-by-case basis.

Oregon’s last executions were in the mid-1990s. Former Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium in 2011 and Gov. Kate Brown has extended it. 

“We’re spending four times more on death sentences than on comparable cases without death sentences despite only having executed two people since Kennedy was President,” Lundell says.

The report’s authors say that because district attorneys and the courts did not provide data on their spending on death penalty cases, the findings are probably an underestimate of the cost.

There are currently 34 people on Oregon’s death row. Despite the moratorium, death penalty cases continue to proceed through the appeals system and new death sentences can still be issued.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center is calling on Gov. Brown to commute the sentences of all those on Oregon's death row to life without parole. 




Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

Archbishop Alexander Sample on the day before Thanksgiving issued a statement on behalf of the Archdiocese of Portland supporting Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to continue a moratorium on executions in Oregon.

“Governor Brown has answered the call issued by Pope Francis earlier this year to leaders around the world to mark the church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy by ending the use of the death penalty.”    

Archbishop Sample said the church once taught that the death penalty would be permissible in certain limited circumstances, but was not to be used when other means of protecting the community are available and sufficient.

“It is therefore clear that there can be no place for the death penalty in a developed society such as ours because it is not necessary for us to use capital punishment to protect ourselves from harm,” the archbishop said, echoing statements from St. John Paul II.

“We have matured in our respect for life and human dignity,” said the archbishop, who frequently visits prison inmates, including on death row.  

The archbishop cited the 156 overturned death sentences in the United States and the high cost that takes funds from “services that are life-sustaining, not life-ending.”

He also said that evidence shows capital punishment is not imposed fairly when it comes to race, class, location and other factors.

“The decision to reject death in favor of life does not reflect a lessening of sympathy with the families of those who have been victims of murder,” the archbishop said. “They continue to bear the burden of their grief and loss. Their right to see justice done on behalf of their loved ones is not diminished. But no peace can result from the violence of the death penalty.”

The nation’s bishops are united in the need to end the death penalty.

“The punishments imposed by our criminal justice system should reflect the inherent dignity of every human person,” the archbishop said.





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