Gov. Kate Brown will commute the death sentences of 17 people to life sentences without parole, her office announced Tuesday afternoon.
No one has been executed in the state since 1997. The governor’s order goes into effect Wednesday.
After taking office in 2015, Brown continued then Gov. John Kitzhaber’s 2011 moratorium on executions. Brown signed a law in 2019 that restricts the use of the death penalty.
The state has had the death penalty in place since 1984 – capital punishment was banned in 1962 – but it didn’t use it until Douglas Wright was executed by lethal injection in 1996. Harry Moore died by lethal injection in May 1997. Both of those men waved their appeals.
The order comes as Brown is set to end her term as governor in January.
“Unlike previous commutations I’ve granted to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation, this commutation is not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row,” Brown said in a statement.
“Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral. It is an irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction; is wasteful of taxpayer dollars; does not make communities safer; and cannot be and never has been administered fairly and equitably.”
As governor, Brown had commuted the sentences or pardoned 1,147 people as of September, more than all of Oregon’s governors over the prior 50 years combined, according to The Guardian. In November, she pardoned 47,144 convictions for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.
Oregon’s death row at the state prison in Salem was discontinued in 2020 and the prisoners on it were moved to other areas in prisons.
According to the governor’s office, Brown is believed to be the seventh governor in 50 years who commuted the sentences of everyone in their state who had a death sentence.
The people whose sentences are being commuted are:
Jesse Caleb Compton
Convicted of the 1997 beating death of a 3-year-old in Springfield. He was sentenced to death in 1998.
Clinton Wendess Cunningham
Convicted in the 1991 rape and murder of 19-year-old Shannon Faith by stabbing her 37 times after picking Faith up while hitchhiking near Coos Bay. He was sentenced to death in 1992.
Randy Lee Guzek
Convicted in the 1987 shooting murders of Rod and Lois Houser in Terrebonne during a burglary. He was sentenced to death in 1988.
Gary Dwayne Haugen
Convicted in the 2007 stabbing death of fellow inmate David Polin. He was originally sent to prison for killing his girlfriend’s mother. He was sentenced to death in 2007. He tried to drop his appeals and be put to death, but later changed his mind.
Michael James Hayward
Convicted in the 1994 death of a clerk and beating of another. He was sentenced to death in 1996. Along with Haugen, he also was convicted in the murder of Polin while in prison.
Robert Paul Langley Jr.
Convicted of murdering Anne Gray and Larry Rockenbrant in 1988 and burying them under a cactus garden at the Oregon State Hospital. He was sentenced to death in 2006.
Christian Michael Longo
Convicted in the 2001 murder of his wife and three children. He fled to Mexico before being extradited to the United States in 2002. He was sentenced to death in 2003.
Ernest Noland Lotches
Convicted in the 1992 killing of a security guard in downtown Portland after being involved in a shootout.
Michael Martin McDonnell
Convicted of the 1984 stabbing death of Joey Keever after escaping the Oregon State Penitentiary farm in Salem. He was sentenced to death in 1988.
Marco Antonio Montez
Convicted of raping and murdering Candice Straub in a Portland motel room in 1987. He was sentenced to death in 1988, and again in 1992.
Horacio Alberto Reyes-Camarena
Convicted of the 1995 stabbing murder of Maria Zetina and stabbing of her sister, Angelica Zetina, in Douglas County. He was sentenced to death in 1997.
Ricardo Pineda Serrano
Convicted in the 2006 murders of Melody Dang and her sons, Steven and Jimmy. He was sentenced in 2010.
Matthew Dwight Thompson
Convicted in the 1992 stabbing deaths of Andrew McDonald and Bill Jones outside a bar in Portland. He was sentenced to death in 1994.
Bruce Aldon Turnidge and Joshua Abraham Turnidge
The father and son from Jefferson were convicted in the 2008 Woodburn bank bombing which killed State Trooper Bill Hakim and Woodburn officer Tom Tennant. They’ve been on death row for nearly 12 years since they were sentenced in 2011.
Mike Spenser Washington Jr.
Convicted in the shooting death of Mohamed Jabbie in Gresham in 2004. He was sentenced to death in 2010.
Tara Ellyssia Zyst (aka Karl Terry)
Convicted in the 1994 death of Jeffrey and Dale Brown with a sword as they slept. He was sentenced to death in 1995.
Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the Statesman Journal. Contact him at bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com