Canby State Rep Decries Governor’s Latest Commuted Sentences

Republican lawmakers, led by House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, of Canby, are pushing back on Governor Kate Brown’s latest use of her clemency powers, claiming her actions are minimizing and retraumatizing the victims of violent crimes.

Brown signed an order Wednesday commuting the sentences of more than 70 prisoners who committed serious crimes as juveniles — and has, in general, granted more pardons and commutations than any governor in state history during her six years in power.

The latest round comes more than two years after the Legislature passed a new bill that made sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system and mandatory minimum sentences. Those changes apply to juveniles sentenced on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

The governor’s commutations this week include people convicted between 1988 and 2019 for crimes such as murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while they were younger than 18 — effectively applying part of the 2019 legislation, Senate Bill 1008, retroactively — known as a “second look hearing.”

“The governor continues to abuse executive power and is now minimizing the voices of victims,” Drazan said in a statement Thursday.

Drazan went on to castigate Brown over procedural issues related to the commutations — saying the list was provided to media before victims were notified.

“Voters passed Measure 11 to give victims of violent crimes the security of justice and safety with truth in sentencing,” Drazan said. “The governor is circumventing voters and the Legislature to clear the path for these violent offenders to be released, despite the trauma it causes victims and their families as they’re forced to relive these crimes.”

The district attorneys in both Lane and Coos counties expressed frustration with the commutations this week, as did Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton in a statement provided to OPB.

“This list represents dangerous individuals who were appropriately sentenced,” Barton said. “Our immediate priorities are to assess the impact of mass commutations on community and victim safety and to ensure the victims of these crimes are informed of the possible release and have an opportunity to have meaningful input in the process.”

Brown’s office responded to those concerns Wednesday, including allegations that the families of victims weren’t informed in advance.

“Our standard procedure and preference is always to ensure that victims and their families receive such notifications in the most trauma-informed way possible before the general public,” Brown spokesman Charles Boyle told KPIC News, a CBS affiliate in Roseburg.

“Regrettably, in this case, the commutation list was obtained by some members of the media at the same time we began our process to contact district attorneys about victim notification. District attorneys and their staff with trauma-informed training have conducted outreach to inform victims and their families.”

A similar gaffe by state officials occurred last month, when the Oregon Department of Administrative Services mistakenly sent data sets to two newspapers containing the names and vaccinations statuses of more than 40,000 state workers.

The two outlets, The Oregonian and Statesman Journal in Salem, had requested only agency-level vaccination and exemption information and promised not to publish confidential employee information they’d been provided.

But that didn’t stop unions representing more than 31,000 workers from filing six separate labor complaints against the state last week, calling for a public apology, investigations and civil penalties.

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