By Jeff Reynolds for PJ Media —
A bill working its way through the Oregon legislature would relax many of the state constitution’s mandatory minimum sentences for juvenile perpetrators of violent crimes. Former district attorneys are sounding the alarm, noting that the bill would lead to a mandatory parole hearing for Kip Kinkel, one of the state’s most notorious mass shooters.
Over the course of two days in May 1998, Kinkel, then 15, murdered his parents and proceeded to Thurston High School with a semi-automatic .22 rifle and shot 24 students, killing two. Under Measure 11, Kinkel received a 111-year sentence without the possibility of parole.
Oregon voters approved Measure 11, which changed the state constitution, by a near 2-1 majority in 1994. Voters were swayed by the argument that violent offenders who are a danger to the community should never be released. Measure 11 enacted mandatory minimum sentences for certain violent crimes. A measure in 2000 that would have repealed Measure 11 was defeated almost 3-1. The measure created minimum sentences for serious violent offenses and allowed 15-17-year-olds who were charged with such offenses to be tried in adult court, while giving judges the discretion not to impose the minimum sentence on many juvenile offenders.
Senate Bill 1008 would weaken all that. If passed, it would undermine the will of the voters and repeal a large portion of the constitutional sentencing requirements for juveniles, including Kip Kinkel.
Norm Frink, a retired deputy district attorney from Multnomah County, told PJ Media via email that SB1008 does the following:
- Amends Oregon Revised Statutes to return exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal cases involving offenders under 18 years of age to the juvenile court system (Section 14)
- Repeals Measure 11 adult court prosecution of violent offenders who were under 18 years of age at the time the offender committed Intentional Murder, Aggravated Murder, First Degree Manslaughter, Rape, Assault, Kidnapping, and Robbery (Section 4)
- Repeals Measure 11 minimum sentences for violent offenders who were under 18 years of age at the time the offender committed Intentional Murder, Aggravated Murder, First Degree Manslaughter, Rape, Assault, Kidnapping, and Robbery not “waived” to adult court for prosecution (Sections 4 and 5)
- Allows Juvenile Court to maintain prosecution of violent offenders who were under 18 years of age at the time the offender committed Intentional Murder, Aggravated Murder, First Degree Manslaughter, Rape, Assault, Kidnapping, and Robbery (Section 6)
- If convicted in juvenile court, all supervision of the offender terminates upon the offender reaching 25 years of age. Consequently, a 17-year-old offender who committed Intentional Murder or Aggravated Murder could not receive a sentence of more than 8 years, including incarceration and parole
- Expands eligibility for “Second Look” conditional release to violent offenders “waived” to adult court and convicted of Intentional Murder, First Degree Manslaughter, Rape, Assault, Kidnapping and Robbery after serving 1/2 of imposed sentence, or upon reaching the age of 24 years, 6 months. (Sections 5 and 22)
- Prohibits sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or release for violent offenders who were under 18 years of age at the time the offender committed the crime of Aggravated Murder (Sections 5, 22 and 24)
- Retroactively makes all current inmates who were under 18 years of age at the time the offender committed their violent crimes Intentional Murder or Aggravated Murder eligible for parole or post-prison supervision after serving 15 years imprisonment (i.e. Kip Kinkel and the like will receive parole hearings next year under this bill). The provision would also apply to serial rapists who received consecutive sentences for assaulting multiple victims or armed robbers as well as other violent criminals (Section 25).
- Requires the offender to be paroled or released on post-prison supervision if the State Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision finds that the inmate has demonstrated “maturity and rehabilitation.” “Maturity and Rehabilitation” are not defined.
- SB 1008 does not allow the Parole Board to consider the seriousness of the underlying crime or the safety of the of the public in determining whether to grant parole or post-prison supervision. The Parole Board shall, however, “give substantial weight to the fact that a person under 18 years of age is incapable of the same reasoning and impulse control as an adult and the diminished culpability of minors as compared to that of adults.”
This comes on the heels of Bernie Sanders’ now infamous support for giving felons the right to vote, which would include the Boston Marathon bomber, who currently sits on death row at a supermax federal prison in Colorado.
Given the traditional support for Republicans who run on a tough on crime platform, it boggles the mind to watch Democrats compete to go so far to the left that they side with violent criminals over average Americans.
SB1008 has already passed the state Senate and had a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 24. The committee may assign the bill to a work committee, or it may vote to advance it to the floor of the House for a vote. Oregon Democrats control both the House and Senate with supermajorities in both chambers. However, a constitutional change requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers before the bill hits the governor’s desk. Several rural districts represented by more reasonable Democrats may have something to say about the release of violent criminals into their communities come next Election Day if this bill passes.
Unfortunately, that may be little consolation to the next victim of a repeat offender let loose on the streets.