Oregon’s Democrat Governor Kate Brown has made a push for clemency towards criminals, prompting outrage among state prosecutors due to her refusal to address the surge in violent crime.
Prosecutors argue that the Governor’s efforts to use executive clemency is making it difficult for them to put dangerous criminals in prison.
"This is the massive release of violent criminals through a process which violates the legal requirements of law," stated Kevin Mannix, the president of Common Sense for Oregon and the lawyer whose firm is bringing a lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown on behalf of two district attorneys and the families of three murder victims, Fox News reported.
Portland, Oregon’s largest city, saw a massive surge in violent crime, particularly homicides. In 2021, the number of homicides in the city went up to 85, up from 57 I n 2020. There were only 36 murders in 2019, and 26 in 2018. The number is not expected to fall.
Mannix and the plaintiffs he represents argue that the 1,000 convicts Brown released from prison early after March 2020 have contributed to the state’s rise in crime.
"Recidivism, or repeat conviction rate, for violent criminals is at least 40%," Mannix said to Fox News. "Sure, we try to rehabilitate people. We try to change their lives, and we should keep trying. But the prediction I would make is that 40% of these violent criminals are going to commit another violent crime."
Mannix charges that while the governor is well within her rights to use her executive powers to grant clemency to convicted felons, there are policies on how to do so that she is flouting.
"[The petitioners] seek Mandamus to order suspension of illegal sentence reductions which are being carried out under the Governor’s asserted clemency power, but which violate the clemency requirements of the Oregon Constitution and Oregon laws," the filing reads.
A Writ of Mandamus is a court order for a government official to “properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse or discretion.” In other words, a court must first determine if law enforcement officers or judges overstepped their bounds and made a wrong decision in convicting a criminal.
Beyond failing to properly notify the families of victims, the governor has also unlawfully delegated her clemency powers to state agencies, including the Oregon Board of Parole, the suit alleges.
"She’s turning herself into a super-legislature, which is across the board suddenly lowering sentences," Mannix said. "And we’re saying she doesn’t have the power to carry out that process."
The prosecutors who are a part of the lawsuit, Lane County’s Patricia Perlow and Linn County’s Doug Marteeny, are asking the court to stifle the governor’s policy on commutations for people convicted of crimes as minors.
"The commutation power does not grant the governor the ability to establish a new alternative penalty of being subject to a Parole Board hearing and oversight," Marteeny wrote in a court filing. "I believe the governor has attempted to exercise powers not granted to her in her commutation powers and has violated established laws regarding the parameters of the clemency process."
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