|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JULY 2012
From an Appreciative Reader
I know that norms of written communication constantly evolve; nevertheless, the following approved sentence (Legal Writer, May 2012) seems a bit much: “Jim’s and their vacation will have be postponed.”
Undeniably demonstrates an economy of words. And might be considered colorful. But I suggest the proffered sentence is objectionable on the basis of — “What in the heck does it mean?”
Wm. E. Duhaime, Eugene
Editors’ note: It means that a typographical error appeared in the May issue. The online version of the Legal Writer column has now been fixed, thanks to your eagle eyes. The print version is out of our hands.
The Debate Begins
Thank you so much for printing “Let the Debate Begin” (June 2012). I’ve been thinking a lot about the death penalty since Gov. Kitzhaber took his — in my opinion, courageous — stand last November. It was great to read such an informative, well-balanced article detailing the positions on both sides of this issue. I wish that there could be more of this type of reporting in the media.
Celia Leber, Bend
A Win for the Defense Either Way
In the Cliff Collins article, “Let the Debate Begin” (June 2012), it is alleged Mr. Marquis claimed that, while in the Lincoln County District Attomey’s office he “tried several homicide cases, including one against Wyoming attomey Gerry Spence, the only time Spence ever lost a murder trial...”
I do not know whether this statement arose from the author’s misinterpreting what Mr. Marquis said, or was simply a misstatement on the part of Mr. Marquis. Whatever the case may be, the statement should be corrected. Gerry Spence defended a woman named Sandra Jones when she was tried for murder in Lincoln County. Mr. Marquis prosecuted the case. The jury trial was eventually moved to Multnomah County. Sandra Jones was acquitted at trial, not convicted. Mr. Spence did not lose.
Ms. Jones’ juvenile son, who could be described as her co-defendant, had previously been adjudicated and found within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The trial court found that if the juvenile were tried as an adult, he committed manslaughter. In a de novo review, the appellate court found that the state had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had killed or aided and abetted in the killing of the victim. See State ex rel. Juvenile Dept. Of Lincoln County v. Jones, 95 Or. App.756, (Or. App. 1989).
In both cases, it is fair to say it was a “win” for the defense, not a loss.
Linda Gouge, The Dalles
Josh Marquis responds: Ms. Gouge is mistaken. I prosecuted Michael Jones for the murder of Wilfred Gerrtula in 1985. I was not involved in the trial and acquittal of his mother, Sandra Jones, in 1988 in Portland. Spence lost the trial before Judge Robert Gardner and it was overturned, without opinion, years later in an appeal handled by different lawyers. Spence made his name “winning” cases like Karen Silkwood and Miss Wyoming. However both those cases were completely reversed on appeal yet he claims to have “won” them. He can’t have it both ways. Either he lost the first Jones case and won the higher profile cases or vice versa, but not both.
Why Chance It?
I write this in response to the article about the death penalty debate in Oregon (June 2012). In the interest of full disclosure, I am against the death penalty. I do not believe a civilized society should be in the business of killing its citizens.
From a pragmatic perspective, having represented hundreds of criminal defendants, I do not believe the death penalty is a deterrent. If there is a legitimate study that shows otherwise, I have never seen it.
The bottom line is this: The death penalty is an inherently flawed system that unnecessarily costs the state of Oregon billions of dollars. And when was the last time Oregon executed someone? What comes with a death sentence is the constitutionally required appellate process. And that process is very, very expensive.
We pursue death penalty convictions knowing that we really never execute anyone; and we do so fully aware that the process that comes with a death penalty sentence is incredibly expensive. I once asked a prominent district attorney, “Why does your office pursue the death penalty when you know we don’t end up executing in Oregon?” His response: “Because death row is a miserable existence.” So, given such a mindset, wouldn’t it make more sense to give people true life sentences and simply impose the same prison conditions as those on death row?
Lastly, and most importantly, in recent years this country has witnessed hundreds of death row inmates exonerated for the crimes for which they were convicted. Sadly, many of those innocent individuals were exonerated after they were executed. So why would we ever chance it? How can you tell me that some unquantifiable benefit of the death penalty outweighs the fact that at times we get it wrong?
Edie Rogoway Van Ness, Portland
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