Portland Tribune, August 12, 2020
Joshua Marquis and Emily Ahyou
'We should expect companies like Nike ... to adapt and end their role in driving the slaughter of kangaroos.'
Some older runners may recall a time when kangaroo skin was used in some running shoes, but are surprised to learn that, while greatly diminished, the practice still exists. A number of footwear giants, most significantly including Oregon's own Nike, the iconic brand founded by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. But Nike isn't alone in this reprehensible practice. Adidas, New Balance and Puma are among a dozen companies still using "K-leather," particularly for soccer cleats.
Most of us find kangaroos charming. They're sociable boxers. The females carry their babies around in a pouch. They pose no threat to humans. The recent catastrophic fires in Australia called attention to these remarkable creatures, alerting the world to the effects of climate change and their fragile existence when their habitats are aflame.
Even before the fires raged, these iconic symbols of Australia were the victims of human callousness and cruelty. The government blesses an annual massacre, conducted by commercial hunters, of upwards of 2 million kangaroos per year. The hunting practices are ruthless, often occurring at night, with the hunters shining a light on the marsupials and trying to shoot them in the head. If the victim is female, and lactating, there's an additional casualty: a "joey" yanked from the pouch and decapitated or swung by the legs onto a rock to bash in its head.
Just as America protects the bald eagle, Australia must do better when it comes to kangaroos. The recent fires are a reminder of what's at stake.
The state of California has banned the sale of shoes containing kangaroo leather, but buyers can still find them. But most consumers remain largely unaware of their role in wildlife exploitation, since the athletic shoe industry doesn't often explicitly label its fabrics.
China has finally acknowledged that the rest of the world is repulsed by the dog-meat industry there, and we should expect companies like Nike, which highlight their social consciousness in advertising and as part of their corporate culture, to adapt and end their role in driving the slaughter of kangaroos. Nike and other companies already offer soccer cleats made from synthetic or plant-based fibers. There was a time when we slaughtered bison by the billions and hunted other species into extinction. That is an ugly era in our treatment of wildlife, and the kangaroo slaughter seems more than a little bit misplaced in the 21st century.
Corporate talk of sustainability and social consciousness must have practical features. Those representations fall flat when you consider the company is behind the largest mammalian slaughter of wildlife in their native habitats in the world.
The slaughter of kangaroos plays no legitimate role in Nike's corporate culture. It is instead something that any sane person or company would conceal and minimize. But in our era of global communications, there's no way to hide a body count of this scale.
It's time for Nike to blaze a humane path and help push the take the entire industry out of the business of mass wildlife killing.
Just do it.
Joshua Marquis is director of legal affairs for Animal Wellness Action and lives in Astoria. Emily AhYou is Oregon state director of Animal Wellness Action and lives in Clackamas.
3 / WHAT NEXT?
Things to look for in the 2021 regular Oregon legislative session:
The coup de grace to the rest of Measure 11.
Measure 11 no longer requires a two-thirds legislative majority, and the legislature will never refer it back to voters, who would very likely re-affirm the measure for the third time. Voters who have had a family member or a friend murdered know that there are some very bad people in Oregon, and we're all better off if they're kept away from us. Those very bad people can be released after serving only eight years of a supposed "life sentence." Eight years for killing somebody for no good reason.
Even worse, if only for sheer numbers, rapists and child molesters could get sentences as low as probation only, no prison. Even those sentenced to prison will likely be released within two years by Parole Boards, accountable to nobody but the Governor who appoints them, and hearing only information about how well the person is doing in the hyper-structured environment of the Oregon prison system.
Racial inequities in sentencing will start to rise again as judges, many appointed by Kate Brown, will be sympathetic to young men who are vouched for by their wealthy parents, school leaders, and clergy. Exactly the way the same groups of people rallied to save Randy Guzek, who butchered Rod and Lois Houser in their home at 3 a.m. in the summer of 1987.
But this time, it's likely to be worse than it was when many of us were younger and fired up by these injustices.
We are at a dark intersection of political correctness and overwhelming white guilt about racism that somehow translates into hatred of all law enforcement and a call to repeal 30 years of true reform that brought justice and even equity to many crime victims who, far out of proportion to their number, are women, children, and people of color.
2 / GUTTING THE DEATH PENALTY
After gutting Measure 11 (see Part 1), next up was Oregon's death penalty, in existence in its present form by two popular votes, first in 1977, then again in 1984.
In its extreme confusion, SB 1013 was either the worst bill ever drafted or a brilliantly worded time bomb intended to destroy Oregon's death penalty. Led by now politically radioactive Jennifer Williamson (who at the time thought she could have her pick of Secretary of State or Attorney General), Williamson knew she'd never get the two-thirds majority to overturn the vote of the people. She had a new plan. In theory she would technically amend and greatly limiting capital punishment. In reality, her goal was to cripple the death penalty, limiting it to circumstances that were unlikely to ever occur.
Murdering a judge or juror is no longer a capital crime. Nor is killing four people as part of a family slaughter. The new law allows prosecution for terrorist murders, but only if the terrorists are part of an organized group, like Al Qaeda, and kill two or more people. Under this new definition, Timothy McVeigh wouldn't qualify for capital murder. Nor Anthony Garner, whom I convicted in 2002 of torturing a woman to death, his second murder conviction.
In fact, of the 34 people on Oregon's death row, only three would be eligible under the new rules.
Filed at the last minute, SB 1013 received little attention or discussion. Concerns that the bill would be retroactive were met with on-the-record assurances by both Williamson and Solicitor General Ben Gutman that the bill absolutely was not.
The bill didn't reach a vote until ten days before sine die. It passed the House 33 to 26. A week later, on June 29, just two days before the session ended, SB 1013 passed the Senate by a 17 to 10 vote. It was signed gleefully by the Governor in a private, invitation only ceremony, attended by legislators who engineered it and leading opponents of capital punishment.
Senators voting NO: Baertschiger Jr, Bentz, Boles, Hansell, Heard, Johnson, Knopp, Olsen, Thatcher, Thomsen
Representatives voting NO: Barker, Barreto, Boles, Bonham, Boshart Davis, Clem, Drazan, Evans, Findley, Hayden, Helt, Leif, Lewis, McKeown, Meek, Mitchell, Nearman, Post, Reschke, Smith DB, Smith G, Sprenger, Wallan, Wilson, Witt, Zika
THEN things started getting interesting. Just a month later, in July 2020, the Oregonian's Noelle Crombie reported that despite specific assurances from, Ben Gutman, AG Ellen Rosenblum's top lawyer, and assurances from the bill's sponsor, Jennifer Williamson, the law, now part of state code, was in fact retroactive. Any of the 30-odd people on death row could seek to overturn their death sentence decades after their convictions.
Since several of the murderers were convicted before 1991, there was no "life without parole" option. A new hearing could immediately release them from prison. Randy Guzek, for example, was sentenced to death by four different juries, had already served 32 years, and could conceivably walk out of prison.
There was great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Even the Oregonian's editorial board, which was now opposing capital punishment after of supporting it, called for a Special Session.
Several prominent lawmakers wrung their hands. In late August Gov. Kate Brown said she would call a Special Session to fix this injustice.
It never happened.
Special Sessions are being called almost monthly now. But in the midst of a closed Capitol and COVID-19, there just wasn't the time or energy to fix their "little mistake."
1 / GUTTING MEASURE 11
The vile duplicity headed by Speaker Kotek, abetted by catatonic Uncle Peter and until recently orchestrated by Jennifer Williamson, is truly disturbing. All the worse because the Oregonian, OPB and other of the larger news mediums either fail to cover their actions or have adopted such obviously biased and "woke" narratives that it would be funny if it weren't so serious.
First were massive changes to criminal sentencing very late in the session and all pre-cooked.
Measure 11 was first passed by a citizen-based group without either the endorsement or the opposition of the state's DAs. It was under constant assault for six years, culminating in Measure 94, led by many major lights who like to call themselves "progressives" (the usual suspects, including Floyd Prozanski, Joann Hardesty, Bowman, Chip Shields, etc), who put together a slick and well-funded campaign in 2000. This time most DAs, myself among the most outspoken, pushed back hard. We even got different reporters and editors (than now) to do a story about how many of the "real scenarios" supposedly showcasing terrible injustice under M11 were in fact either totally made up, or from other states with different laws.
Measure 94 was defeated by a massive 3 to 1 margin -- 73% to 27%, a fact NEVER mentioned in today's stories that seek to tie the measure to as distant a past as possible and assign to Kevin Mannix all credit and blame.
Measure 11 automatically "remanded" juvenile killers and rapists into adult court. If the offender was 17 when convicted, they could serve their entire sentence at the Oregon Youth Authority and never see the inside of the State Prison. There were two exceptions -- one for manslaughter in the first degree, for which the juvenile would be sentenced a minimum of 10 years; and one for murder, with a minimum sentence of 25 years. Either of those two convictions would eventually send the 17-year-old to State Prison.
The law also went a long way toward erasing racial and economic inequities. White, upper-middle-class judges had previously been far more willing to grant probation to someone who looked like their son than to the poor Hispanic convicted of the same serious felony.
Oh, and crime plummeted under M-11 at rates even higher than other parts of America.
Capital punishment, while always controversial, was used exceedingly sparingly by prosecutors and even more so by juries. Oregon's small death row was overwhelmingly white and male (with only one woman on it). I I prosecuted at least 10 potential capital murders, sought death in only two cases, and received a jury verdict of death for one defendant, Randy Guzek (at each of three separate trials).
Now, move to the 2019 session. No more Hardy Myers as AG to advocate for victims. The Oregon Police Chiefs (OACP) and Sheriffs (OSSA) completely sold out in exchange for big salaries and anti-police union legislation. Oregon District Attorneys' (ODAA) "leadership" simply avoided all controversy.
The legislature scheduled "Invited Testimony Only" hearings, packed with the same opponents to Measure 11 as 20 years ago, this time concentrating on the juvenile aspect. There was virtually no real debate. I watched every minute of the hearings, the debate and the vote.
The legislature needed a two-thirds majority to change the constitution. So, in exchange for the exact number of votes needed to overturn M-11, Kotek, Courtney, et.al. promised four GOP legislators from rural Oregon various gifts on the infamous Christmas Tree bill.
In a stunning "Please don't throw me in the briar patch" speech, GOP leader Mike McLane (R-District 55) appeared to deliberately throw the vote. He gave the vaguest of lip service to "what the ODAA wanted," a phrase calculated to inflame legislators who loathed DAs.
McLane didn't vote for the repeal, but he guided in the missile and delivered the coup de grace. McLane resigned his House seat just days later, in July 2019, after five terms, to accept an appointment by Gov. Brown to Circuit Court Judge for Crook and Jefferson counties. Records show McLane was exempted from the usual application process, so didn't have to compete with those who actually filed and were interviewed. Coincidence?
The whole debate was a farce. Kotek and Williamson had pre-purchased four Republicans, all from districts that had reaffirmed by 4 to 1 or greater their constituents' support for Measure 11, putting a quick end to the 25-year-old reform measure. Yes, Measure 11 was a reform, a leveling of the field, a truth in sentencing measure that gave victims a seat at the table.
With M-11 was toast, because much of the constitutional amendment had been "broken" by a two-thirds vote, most legal scholars, myself, believe that the adult part of Measure 11 -- which requires rapists actually serve 8 years, child molesters serve 5, and murderers serve 25 -- can be killed off by a simple majority vote in the 2021 session. If not sooner, given this legislature's zeal to expand one-day special sessions to settle old political scores.
PART 2 : GUTTING THE DEATH PENALTY
Mary Ann Murk, an attorney in Astoria, Oregon, is probably the best and savviest advocate a person facing a mental commitment could have. She writes honestly about the cruelty that some allegedly mentally ill persons are subjected to, and the costs of and emotional burden to the law enforcement officers charged with finding some place for the person to land. These people haven’t been charged with a crime. Their victims are often family members who want them to get help, not spend time in jail.
Oregon’s law on allegedly mentally ill persons (colloquially known as AMIPs) has nothing to do with legal insanity or being unfit to stand for trial. The mental commitment process isn’t part of the criminal code. It’s an attempt to provide a constitutional structure for people suffering such severe mental illness that they pose an immediate physical threat to themselves or others, or who won’t provide for such a basic need as eating.
These cases are heartbreaking. They are usually brought by concerned family members, rarely by the cops, never by the district attorney’s office. Here’s a fairly typical example:
A family member repeatedly calls Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare (CBH) because their adult son is convinced outside governments are communicating with him through microwaves that only he can hear. One day he threatens to blow up a local government building to stop the voices. He yells, screams, takes out the kitchen knives and begins cutting himself.
A crime hasn’t been committed. The police won’t engage, even if the family says they’re afraid of what the son might do. CBH will send one or two case workers to assess the situation and write a report. If they believe the son meets the qualifications, CBH will apply to the court for an order. If the judge believes the person qualifies under Oregon law, she will sign a warrant of detention. At this point the sheriff’s office is delegated the responsibility of transporting the person to whatever mental hospital between Coos Bay and the Idaho border is available.
Let’s say the person is “decompensating” -- falling apart -- in a store. Making a terrible and frightening scene but not destroying any property. The store is likely to call the police. The police will likely come to ensure a crime hasn’t taken place. This is one of the social services we’ve come to expect the police to provide. They will try to “de-escalate,” or calm down, the person, and possibly suggest he leave the store. Police are trained in de-escalation. The officer is there to make sure no one is getting hurt and that the guy doesn’t have a weapon. Once the officer has assured that, she will call CBH to have that agency come and assess the person. Often CBH doesn’t or can’t immediately respond, so the officer has to stay around to make sure the person is safe and that the situation doesn’t escalate. If the officer can articulate an imminent danger, she can hold the person temporarily, usually in the back of the police car, until CBH arrives.
There are many scenarios. Some are worse -- for everyone -- than others. The important point here is that police don’t investigate and make judgments about mental illness. Mental health workers do. The budget of CBH is larger than the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office combined. (All CBH funding comes from the state and some federal sources.) And yet we definitely need more funding for mental health. We also need the police, and probably more funding for them, at least in Astoria. I can guarantee you that if a family member calls CBH and says their son has lost his mind and is waving a butcher knife around, CBH is going to call the police, and wait for officers to respond before going in themselves. (That’s one other reason why officers wear 40-pound vests: to prevent themselves from being stabbed in the chest.)
No mental health facility for those who need temporary commitment is available anywhere on the north coast. Semi-independent housing was closed years ago. Drop-in crisis services have been dramatically reduced. Neither our hospitals nor our jail have a room for people whose primary issue is acute mental illness (despite years of attempting to convince both CMH and Providence Seaside to do so.) The Oregon State Hospital was massively downsized over a decade ago. The only options are within a small patchwork of hospitals ranging from Coos Bay, Corvallis, Portland, and Ontario.
A shackled 9-hour ride in the back of a sheriff’s patrol car is demeaning and terrifying, as most of the people are in active psychosis and believe they are being abducted by aliens or sent for medical experiments. They are clearly suffering and usually haven’t committed a crime, and certainly haven’t been charged as yet. Nor should the sheriff have to engage in this sometimes dangerous and almost always unpleasant duty.
What can we do? Mandate that all hospitals have the ability to do psychiatric evaluations every day of the week. Create a treatment and evaluation facility close enough to avoid the long ride. Assign transport to a non-police agency. But consider what might happen when the allegedly mentally ill person attacks the driver or bolts the car on the Santiam Pass in mid-winter. Once social workers have the training, legal authority, and desire to run after and restrain someone in the grip of a psychosis, they might as well be police officers.
There are many dedicated people working in the field, but we fail the profoundly mentally ill. The police are the least culpable of all.
Some proponents of Defund the Police want to refocus how police work is done. Many police departments themselves might welcome this because many consider the proper work of police to be detecting and apprehending criminal suspects, not doing social work. Some proponents, like the city leaders in Minneapolis and Seattle, have made clear they seek abolition. In practical terms that will mean that unless an actual crime is underway, and likely a violent crime, police officers will respond only to purely criminal calls. That, of course, does nothing to avoid confrontations with robbers high on meth, and men with anger management problems who’ve beaten their girlfriend to a bloody pulp. A serious car crash might be ignored absent immediate evidence of drunk driving.
Police reforms, treatment of the mentally ill -- these issues should go well beyond politics. The Great Cauliflower, as I’ve often called Reagan, didn’t open the mental institutions on his own. Nor did Nixon. The call to deinstitutionalize came well before either of these conservatives, and arose from more liberal outrage. Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was published in 1962. In 1963 Kennedy proposed and signed into law the “Community Mental Health Act,” which would have built local mental health facilities to replace institutions. The Act was poorly funded due to the costs of the Vietnam War. Medicaid’s passage in 1965, signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, incentivized moving patients out of institutions.
Just as former speaker of the house Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” By extension, so are the solutions.
JOSHUA MARQUIS on
criminal justice, animal welfare, and the nature of the relationship between popular culture and the law.
See the Archives page for an index of all posts, including those prior to January 2019.