Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Red Justice in a Blue State

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Robert J. Smith reports in Slate:

Here’s a riddle: What state incarcerates a higher percentage of its black population than Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana?

I’ll bet you didn’t guess Oregon.

Indeed, the Beaver State locks up its black citizenry at a rate twice that of Georgia and Mississippi. Oregon also has the second highest rate of youth transferred to adult court after Florida. It is the only state besides Louisiana that allows non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases, and it is the only state besides Texas to require “future dangerousness,” a discredited and scientifically bankrupt jury determination, as a determining factor in sentencing people to death.

How does Oregon, a state that has voted blue in every gubernatorial and presidential election since 1988 and which was one of the first states to legalize marijuana, end up with a criminal justice system that more closely resembles the Deep South than its West Coast neighbors?

The blame lies in significant part with Oregon’s out-of-touch elected prosecutors. These powerful forces within the criminal justice system help to explain the gap between two seemingly incompatible Oregons: one with a governor who has placed a moratorium on executions, and the other whose retrogressive and racially disparate criminal law enforcement policies have led to the seventh highest rate of black imprisonment in the nation.

A prime example of these prosecutors run amok is Josh Marquis, the elected district attorney of Clatsop County and a former president of the powerful Oregon District Attorneys Association. In an era where even conservatives like Newt Gingrich and the Koch brothers are fighting to wean America from its addiction to prisons, Marquis recently called “the claim that mass incarceration is out of control” one of those “urban legends accepted by conservatives and liberals alike.” Back in 2006, Marquis authored a law review article titled “The Myth of Innocence” and wrote in the New York Times that “Americans should be far more worried about the wrongfully freed than the wrongfully convicted.” More recently, he opposed a new law to expand post-conviction access to DNA evidence, legislation that made it easier for people to prove their innocence.

Marquis is a veritable font of absurd positions on criminal justice reform in Oregon.

Both the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police support reclassifying offenses involving the possession of a small amount of drugs from felonies to misdemeanors. Josh Marquis opposes the plan.

An Oregon trial court judge concluded that “race and ethnicity was a motivating factor in the passage” of Oregon’s peculiar non-unanimous jury law. The judge expressed “serious concern” about the impact that the law, which passed “during a period of racial tension when the state had seen an explosion of organized racial hatred and the rise of the KKK,” continues to have today. In local coverage of the case, John Hummel, the elected prosecutor for Deschutes County, said that a jury verdict with two dissenting views is one that “we shouldn’t have confidence in.” Yet, Marquis is quoted in the same article in support of non-unanimous jury verdicts.

Josh Marquis is, of course, not the only prosecutor responsible for the stains on Oregon’s justice system. Rather, he is symptomatic of a system that is overly influenced by a narrow band of thuggish prosecutors who wield outsized power both in the Oregon District Attorneys Association and in fanning the flames of fear across the state’s media landscape. Two others warrant similar attention: Bob Hermann, the elected district attorney for Washington County, and John Foote, the elected prosecutor for Clackamas County. . .

Continue reading.

Keep reading. There’s more, and it’s shocking.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2017 at 12:14 pm

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