Governor's Early Release of Felons
Governor Brown has released nearly 1,142 duly convicted and sentenced felons early from their prison sentences.
Early Release of 985 Convicted Felons
Clemency actions by the Governor are a rare exercise of executive power reserved for unique circumstances and this has been the case in Oregon until 2020. From the time Governor Kate Brown took office in February 2015, through June 2019, 1,033 applications for clemency were submitted to her. Of those, she granted 11 pardons and four commutations. Governor Brown’s use of her clemency power changed dramatically in 2020.
On June 25th, 2021, Governor Brown presented a highly unusual ‘report’ via a letter with three exhibits to Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek. In the letter, Governor Brown explained that she had, since March 2020, granted 33 pardons, 32 commutations, and one reprieve. She also reported that she had, because of the state of emergency she declared due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, commuted the sentences of an additional 912 felons. She provided only the name, crime committed, sentence and release date for all 912 felons, disregarding the constitutional and statutory requirements for process, reporting and transparency. Further, Governor Brown reported in her letter that she also cut 41 convicted felons’ sentences short by a full 12 months “in recognition of the extraordinary efforts made by (the felons) who were deployed to fight the historic wildfires that ravaged the state around Labor Day 2020.” The report was scant on information about the 41 felons released due to their firefighting work. Only a very Brief Summary of this report was provided by the Governor to the full Legislative Assembly.
Common Sense for Oregon founder and President, Kevin Mannix, sent several missives directly to the individual members of the Oregon Legislature, drawing attention to the mass early release of felons in a misapplication of clemency power, and to the purpose and effectiveness of Measure 11 since it was passed by the voters in November of 1994. The en mass release of felons before completion of duly secured sentences undermines Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentences for the 16 most violent crimes.
Common Sense for Oregon filed comprehensive public records requests with the Governor’s Office and the Oregon Department of Corrections in August, 2021. While we await a full response to our detailed requests, we can confidently report that most, if not all, of the 912 and 41 felons released, never submitted a clemency application to Governor Brown. Also, documentation indicates that felons were not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of release into communities across Oregon.
Common Sense for Oregon awaits requested information regarding the housing and work plans for the nearly 1,000 felons that were released before the completion of their sentences.
Our primary mission at Common Sense for Oregon is to raise awareness and educate our citizenry on issues of great importance to our communities in hopes we will empower people with accurate information that helps them make good decisions. Carrying out our mission, we included elected officials and candidates in our efforts to educate and inform by preparing a detailed White Paper on Clemency Powers. Common sense then distributed the White Paper to Oregon’s District Attorneys, Sheriffs, and the Governor’s legal staff; many of whom object to abuse of clemency power.
Governor Kate Brown has misapplied her clemency powers since early 2020 and we have been in communication with her legal staff, raising our concerns. We delivered a letter to Governor Brown and Department of Corrections Director Collette Peters on October 20, 2021. We have not received an acknowledgement from either of them to date.
A closer look at the documents referenced above
Missives sent to members of the Oregon Legislature
Dear Senators and Representatives,
If you saw a headline, “10 Convicted Murderers Escape From Oregon Prisons,” I would hope you would take notice.
Well, since March 1, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has granted early release from prison to 10 convicted murderers. She also has granted early release from prison to 975 other convicted felons.
As to reductions of prison sentences, ORS 144.660 requires: “The Governor shall report to the Legislative Assembly in the manner provided in ORS 192.245” commutations or pardons granted by the Governor.
Oregon law requires you receive “an executive summary of no more than two pages sent to every member of the Legislative Assembly by electronic mail” whenever a law requires a written report be submitted to the Legislative Assembly. ORS 192.245 (1).
On June 25, 2021 the Governor reported to the President of Senate and the Speaker of House as to the release of 985 convicted felons from Oregon prisons. This report was delivered a day before the adjournment of the Legislative Session. Common Sense For Oregon received a copy of this report because we had pending, since March, a public records request to the Governor’s Office.
So, we respectfully ask: Were members of the Legislative Assembly sent an executive summary of this required report?
In case you did not receive such a summary, our Common Sense For Oregon staff have reviewed the Governor’s report. We have prepared our own summary, and it is attached.
But to give you the complete picture as to this massive assault on truth in sentencing, we have also attached a media release which provides my own comments. We have also attached the Governor’s entire report to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
If you take a look at ORS 144.660, every commutation report also requires:
“The report shall include, but not limited to the reason for granting the reprieve, commutation or pardon, the name of the applicant, the crime of which the applicant was convicted, the sentence and its date, statements by the victim of the crime or any member of the victim’s immediate family… a statement by the district attorney where the conviction was had, photos of the victim, the autopsy report, if applicable, and the date of the commutation, pardon or reprieve.”
A good deal of this information is not included in the Governor’s report to Senate President and Speaker of the House.
I hope that some members of the Legislative Assembly will inquire further into these matters and at least demand additional explanation by the Governor.
Kevin L. Mannix, President
Common Sense for Oregon
2007 State St.
Salem, OR, 97301
Dear Senators and Representatives,
I am issuing this special message in regard to Measure 11 because the Governor is considering granting early release for Measure 11 criminals who helped fight Oregon Wildfires.
The only way the Governor can reduce any Measure 11 mandatory minimum prison sentence is by using her constitutional clemency power. I believe that the exercise of clemency power requires that the Governor evaluate each specific case in which clemency is considered, and that she cannot carry out massive clemency grants which have the effect of changing established law regarding criminal sentences.
I encourage every legislator to oppose this proposed reduction of sentences as to violent and sex criminals in light of the crimes which are involved and in recognition of the rights of victims to be consulted about this. Under the Oregon constitution every single victim of these Measure 11 criminals will have to be contacted in regard to this early release. This in itself imposes additional trauma on these victims.
I ask you to contact the Governor and to advise her that the proposed early release is ill-advised and should not proceed, in regard to convicted felons but especially in regard to those who are serving Measure 11 sentences.
Kevin L. Mannix
President, Common Sense for Oregon
Author of Measure 11
Dear Members of the House,
Senate Bill 819 undermines earlier Measure 11 convictions and sentences by allowing a soft-hearted district attorney (yes, Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt) to get together with a criminal defense attorney and retroactively undo a Measure 11 conviction and sentence. This would be done by petitioning the sentencing court to allow a new conviction and sentence to be entered because the District Attorney and the Defense Attorney agree that the original sentence “no longer advances the interests of justice.”
One of the key elements of voter-passed Measure 11 is the predictability of sentences for violent crime upon conviction. Under Senate Bill 819 a District Attorney may eliminate the impact of a jury conviction for a violent crime through an agreement with a criminal defense attorney to petition the court to reduce or eliminate a criminal conviction and sentence.
This is a miscarriage of justice. I also contend that Senate Bill 819 requires a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate since it allows the reduction of sentences required by the voters for Measure 11 crimes.
There is a process already in place to modify criminal sentences: the clemency power of the governor. If a District Attorney and a Criminal Defense Attorney want to see an earlier sentence reduced or eliminated, they can ask the governor to use her clemency power to pardon the offender or modify the sentence.
I urge all members of the House to vote against Senate Bill 819. While it is presented as a Ballot Measure 110 implementation bill, its actual affect is the elimination of Measure 11 sentences for violent criminals who were convicted by Oregon juries or who pled guilty to Measure 11 crimes.
Kevin L. Mannix
President, Common Sense for Oregon
Author of Measure 11
Dear Representative Lewis,
Thank you for raising questions in the committee about this bill. I have sent an email to all members of the House and I trust that you have seen it.
This is the kind of legislation that every member of the House Republican Caucus ought to take a stand in opposition, regardless of whether a 2/3 vote is required. This is retroactive resentencing. The voters have taken a position against such resentencing by prohibiting the legislature from reducing sentences after the fact, Oregon Constitution, Article 1, Section 44. Any such system requires that each case go back in front of the sentencing court. That is why the proponents of this bill have to petition the judge but the very passage of this legislation can create a flood of retroactive resentencing in a given county where a District Attorney wants to eliminate tough sentences which were imposed in earlier cases.
Kevin L. Mannix
Dear Republican Members of the House of Representatives;
I am writing to those of you who are on the Republican side of the aisle because this is one of those pieces of legislation where Republicans ought to come together to vote no as a matter of principle.
This bill is designed to allow Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, and one or two other District Attorneys of like mind, to get together with criminal defense attorneys and petition the county circuit courts to set aside Measure 11 convictions and sentences so as to allow lesser crimes of convictions and sentences (with no mandatory minimum prison sentence) to replace the original conviction.
This is a back door opportunity for leftist DA’s to reduce legitimate convictions for Measure 11 crimes and get lesser sentences put in place so that the convicted felons will get an earlier release from prison. They might even get such a light sentence that they are released on the basis of time served.
Because the Constitution requires that the sentencing court must make such a decision, the victims of these crimes will be notified and traumatized by having to go through a new sentencing process.
The Bill is supposed to be designed to further the “interests of justice.” Well, there is a process in place where this can occur: a DA and his Criminal Defense Attorney friend can apply to the Governor for clemency. She has the power to reduce sentences and pardon people, under the Oregon Constitution.
So, please consider this plain message: a vote in favor of this Bill is a vote to unlock the prison cell door and reduce mandatory minimum prison sentences which were established by a vote of the people. It will also over-ride verdicts by juries by reducing the crime of conviction by the jury.
Legislative Counsel may advise that this Bill does not require a 2/3 majority vote to pass because it does not directly reduce sentences. But it does so indirectly.
I urge a NO VOTE on SB 819 A.
Kevin L. Mannix
Lawsuit Filed to Compel the Governor to Follow Clemency Laws
The law firm of Kevin L. Mannix, P.C., on behalf of Common Sense for Oregon, represents District Attorneys Patty Perlow and Doug Marteeny, and four crime victims who are directly affected by the unlawful clemency actions taken by Governor Brown. On behalf of our clients, we have filed a Petition in Marion County Circuit Court, seeking an order (mandamus) that the Governor, and state agencies and officials, follow the clemency law. The objective of this lawsuit is to request the Circuit Court of Marion County to compel Governor Brown, the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Oregon Youth Authority, and the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision to comply with the law.
On January 31, 2022, the Court issued the Alternative Writ and ordered Defendants Governor Brown and state agencies to respond to the lawsuit by February 16, 2022. The full hearing regarding the case will be held on February 28, 2022. The Mannix Law Firm has also reached an agreement with the State that no additional felons will be released under any clemency action between February 2 and March 2, by which point the court plans to rule on the matter.
Filed Court Documents
The state’s motion to dismiss petition for writ and memorandum of law in support of motion.
Our reply to the state’s motion to dismiss.
Opinion letter written to the Governor on March 1, 2022.
Petition for Alternative Writ of Mandamus filed on January 18, 2022. The official case filing number is: 22CV02609.
- Exhibit 1 – Clemency Application Packet received from Governor’s office via email on Aug. 13, 2021
- Exhibit 2 – Governor Kate Brown’s Report to Legislature, Mar. 9, 2020
- Exhibit 3 – Letters from Governor Kate Brown to Department of Corrections
- Exhibit 4 – Governor Kate Brown’s Report to Legislature, June 25, 2021
- Exhibit 5 – Governor Kate Brown’s Summary of Report to Legislature, June 26, 2021
- Exhibit 6 – Letters from Department of Corrections to CSFO in response to records request
- Exhibit 7 – Letter from Governor Kate Brown to Department of Corrections, Sep. 28, 2021
- Exhibit 8 – List provided by Department of Corrections to Governor Kate Brown
- Exhibit 9 – Governor Kate Brown’s Commutation Order, Oct. 20, 2021
- Exhibit 10 – Letters between District Attorney Patricia Perlow and DOC – Jean Bergen
- Exhibit 11 – Letters from Department of Corrections to select inmates, Oct. 15, 2021; Oct. 20, 2021
- Exhibit 12 – Emails between Governor Kate Brown’s office to CSFO attorney Monique DeSpain
- Exhibit 13 – Governor Brown’s past Clemency Report to Legislature, March 3, 2016
- Exhibit 14 – Governor Brown’s Clemency Report to Legislature, June 6, 2017
- Exhibit 15 – Governor Brown’s Clemency Report to Legislature, March 3, 2018
- Exhibit 16 – Governor Brown’s Clemency Report to Legislature, June 28, 2019
- Exhibit 17 – Governor Brown’s Clemency Report to Legislature, March 9, 2020
- Exhibit 18 – Governor Kate Brown’s 2020-2021 Clemency Orders
- Exhibit 19 – List of Articles in the News in Response to Governor Brown’s Unlawful Clemency Actions
- Exhibit 20 – Letter from the Oregon District Attorney Association to the Parole Board
Affidavit from DA Douglas R. Marteeny in support of petition for Alternative Writ of Mandamus.
Affidavit from DA Patty Perlow in support of petition for Alternative Writ of Mandamus.
On January 31, 2022, the Court issued the Alternative Writ and ordered Defendants Governor Brown et al to respond to the Court with a reply and supporting documents by February 16, 2022.