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Executions in Oregon limited under new state law

Oregon is limiting the possibility of future death penalty cases under a new law, even though the state has not seen an execution in more than 20 years.

The policy has already sparked controversy since going into effect on Sept. 29. That's because it could change what current and future criminal cases qualify for death sentences.

Changes the law could have on Oregon death sentences

The bill could have a significant impact on the 43 open aggravated murder cases across the state, as 37 of them no longer qualify for execution. Those cases will now be listed as first-degree murder. According to news reports, there are still five cases that could be eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors say they remain uncertain of how they will approach them.

Death penalty limits

Under the current law, prosecutors can still pursue execution in these instances:

  • Pre-planned murder of children
  • First-degree murder of law enforcement officials
  • Terrorist attacks where two or more people are killed
  • Convicted murders who kill another inmate

Some prosecutors may have to change their tone

As the law puts stricter measures on death penalty qualifications, prosecutors may have to reassess some older, high-profile cases where the circumstances may not meet current execution standards. Those include a man who killed four women in Portland in the 80s and 90s, and a man who killed two people on a MAX train in Northeast Portland.

Know your options

Inmates in Oregon who are currently on death row may want to know their options regarding the new death sentence policy. If that's the case, an experienced criminal defense attorney can answer their questions and help assess if their case can be disqualified.

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