Lewis & Clark Law School



Death Penalty


The Oregon Justice Resource Center opposes the death penalty (capital punishment) in all circumstances. The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of civil liberties. The OJRC participates in strategic and impact litigation, engages in community outreach, and facilitates law students' pro bono work with capital defenders.

The Goals of the OJRC are:

  • To repeal the death penalty in Oregon and to abolish the death penalty in the United States.
  • To improve the quality of legal representation and the fairness of capital trials and appeals.
  • To support and promote the use of a life sentence (true life) as an alternative to the death penalty in response to aggravated murder because it is an effective and sufficient punishment.
  • To promote the research, education and discussion of issues relating to the abolition of the death penalty.

The OJRC opposes the death penalty for the following reasons:

  • The death penalty is applied arbitrarily.
  • The death penalty is applied disproportionately against the poor and minorities.
  • The death penalty creates an unacceptable risk of executing innocent people. Since 1976, more than 140 individuals have been released from death row and states have likely executed innocent people.
  • The death penalty diverts valuable resources resulting in a less efficient and effective criminal justice system
  • The death penalty does not deter crime.

Read more about Oregon's death penalty: Oregon’s Death Penalty: The Practical Reality, 17 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 1 (Spring 2013), by  Professor Aliza B. Kaplan, Lewis & Clark Law School

In November 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on the Oregon death penalty, calling it a system that is “compromised and inequitable” and “fails to meet basic standards of justice.” With Governor Kitzhaber’s refusal to allow any further executions under his watch, Oregon became one of the most recent states to withdraw from the death penalty. Indeed, Governor Kitzhaber’s statement recognized the practical and financial difficulties with, and ultimately the unjustness of, Oregon’s death-penalty system and, as such, called on Oregonians to discover a better alternative. 

In this Article, Professor Kaplan examines Oregon’s lengthy and dysfunctional death-penalty system and the practical realities that make it so problematic. The discussion analyzes the history of Oregon’s death penalty; the serious and prevalent issue of wrongful convictions across the country (including Oregon); the extraordinary taxpayer costs associated with maintaining the death penalty in Oregon, where only two people — both of whom were volunteers — have been executed; and the changes in state law and death penalty jurisprudence that have slowed the administration of Oregon’s death penalty to render it ineffective. Professor Kaplan argues that, given these practical concerns, the Oregon death penalty, as it currently stands, is in serious need of examination from a public policy standpoint to ensure that cost, effectiveness, and time, are given proper consideration. To do this, she recommends that Governor Kitzhaber designate a non-partisan committee to study Oregon’s death penalty as it currently stands and report its findings. Professor Kaplan concludes that a comprehensive committee report on Oregon’s death penalty will ultimately allow Oregonians to decide whether to maintain or abolish the death penalty.