October 7 (WNN) — The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death penalty for a man convicted of murdering a cellmate in 2013, potentially setting the stage for the vacating of all other death sentences in the state.
The state’s highest court upheld the murder sentence of David Bartol, but ordered him to be reprimanded, the prospect of life in prison. The judges said the murder he committed did not conform to the new guidelines, for which offenses are treated as capital punishment.
Bartol was serving a 30-day sentence in the Marion County Jail when he killed fellow inmate Gavin Sisel on June 4, 2013.
Under changes to the law in 2019, only certain murders can now be considered the death penalty, including children under the age of 14, law enforcement officers, terror attacks that kill at least two people, and prison homicides. Huh. The offender had previously been convicted of murder.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that lawmakers, when they passed the updated law, included a provision that would make it retroactive no earlier than 2019. The Oregon Supreme Court, however, sets a precedent in allowing it to apply in older cases, saying the state’s constitution does not allow for disproportionate punishment.
“The enactment of SB 1013 reflects a legislative determination that, at any time, the conduct that constituted ‘grievous murder’ does not fall within the narrow category of conduct for which the death penalty is appropriate,” The court’s opinion says
“Given that determination, we conclude that, although the legislature did not retroactively frame SB 1013 as to sentences imposed before its effective date, upholding the defendant’s death sentence would be a violation of the Oregon Constitution.” “.
Advocates say the 29 people currently on the death penalty in Oregon could also see their death sentences reduced under similar rulings.
“The Oregon Supreme Court has just issued an opinion that indicates that any death penalty imposed in Oregon prior to 2019 is invalid,” said death penalty attorney Sister Helen Prezen. said.
“My expectation is that every death sentence currently being held will be reversed as a result,” Jeffrey Ellis, co-director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center, told OPB.
The Portland Mercury reported that even though the state has not executed anyone since 1997, the continued use of the sentence in the courts costs the state an additional $800,000 to $1 million per death penalty case.