During the 2019 Oregon legislative session, most Democratic lawmakers (not Sen. Betsy Johnson or Rep. Brad Witt or Rep. Jeff Barker) along with four Republicans (bribed with special projects for their districts) voted to erase the vote of 74% of Oregonians. Those Oregonians, in 2000, reaffirmed the part of Measure 11, a sentencing bill first passed in 1994, that holds older teenagers accountable, making "adult time for adult crime."
Measure 11 applies only to the violent crimes of murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and kidnapping. Since the legislature's vote in 2019, not one person under the age of 19 has been "bound over" as an adult for murder.
Not even for the robbery and murder of 18-year-old Ian Olson. Olson's killer was 15 at the time (he's now 17). Shooting Ian Olson in the head was the culmination of a two-month binge of violent assaults, a dozen of them. The killer will remain in the juvenile system. Under no circumstances can he be held past the age of 25. He has no record, for in fact he was never "convicted."
Based on my experience, under Measure 11 the most likely outcome would have been that the young attacker would plead to First Degree Manslaughter, be sentenced to 10 years, and serve all that time in the Oregon Youth Authority, not in an adult prison. Now, he will have no record whatsoever. There will be no permanent record of him having been "adjudicated". When he is released, he can truthfully answer "No" when asked, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"
In a Eugene case, where a 16-year-old beat a sleeping homeless man to death, an even greater injustice is possible. According to a report by Noelle Crombie in the Oregonian: "State officials this week said Kirkpatrick [who has been charged with murder] is subject to a legal loophole that could have implications for his sentence if he is found guilty. By law, the Oregon Youth Authority is allowed to lock up offenders who are sentenced before they turn 19. if Kirkpatrick is found guilty and is sentenced after age 19, he is only eligible for probation. He turns 19 later this year."
These cases are difficult for journalists to cover. Court records, even arraignments, are not public, though the actual proceedings must be. A case involving a juvenile is reported on only when the reporter discovers the date and location of a court hearing, or learns about it from the victim's family. Otherwise, the crime and its perpetrator become the tree that makes no sound because it fell when nobody was around to hear.
What's next in the dismantling of the people's vote? The wholesale abolition of Measure 11 as it applies to adults. Convicted of murder, a person would likely spend only eight years in prison, instead of 25. A man convicted of violent rape or rape of a child (Rape in the First Degree), instead of an eight-year sentence currently, could (and sometimes did before Measure 11 was enacted) get probation.
This isn't justice. It's worth contacting your legislator and telling them to abide by the people's repeated votes.
JOSHUA MARQUIS on
criminal justice and the nature of the relationship between popular culture and the law.
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