If the Oregon Legislature want to change Oregon’s Measure 11 statute that sets mandatory sentences for felony crimes, they should refer those changes to the citizens who have twice supported the measure at the ballot box, says Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny.
Marteeny said there are at least five proposed Senate bills that would chip away at the measure.
“I oppose changes to Measure 11. Governments should be run by the people,” Marteeny said. “Through the passage of Measure 11, the people of Oregon clearly declared what they would like to see happen when someone commits rape, attempted murder or steals property at gunpoint — all crimes under Measure 11.
Marteeny said Measure 11 “provides us the rare instance where we know exactly what the people want when it comes to sentences for violent crimes. The people have established measured and certain sentences through the passage of Measure 11. The people’s will in these matters was declared and reaffirmed at the ballot box in 1994 and 2000. Any proposal to change what the people have declared should be referred back to the people to ask their will."
In 1994, Measure 11 was passed with 66 percent approval and in 2000, when the state tried to repeal Measure 11, some 73 percent of voters rejected the ballot measure.
According to Marteeny, If the Legislature refuses to take the issue back to the people, they must consider themselves superior to the people “and that is never good.”
Marteeny said the public is served by Measure 11 because it provides truth in sentencing.
“When a judge declares a sentence, the victim of the crime has confidence in what the outcome of the case is,” Marteeny said. “I would oppose any erosion of this truth in sentencing principle.”
Marteeny added that Measure 11 also provides closure for crime victims.
He said without Measure 11, there can be ambiguity in sentencing and that can “entangle crime victims in litigation and hearings even after a final sentence is imposed.”
Marteeny said Measure 11 sentences are not harsh. He noted that the sentence for forcible rape under Measure 11 sentencing is 8 years and 4 months.
Marteeny pointed to a study by the Oregon District Attorneys Association that found the number of juveniles sentenced under Measure 11 is small.
The majority are incarcerated for sex crimes and robbery offenses. More than 80 percent of their victims are under 12 years of age and many are less than 6 years old.
The study noted that there are only 134 juveniles in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority who were sentenced under Measure 11. That’s less than seven-tenths of one percent of the state’s total juvenile population.
And, the study further notes, there are only 225 inmates in the state’s adult prison system who began their sentences as juveniles under Measure 11.
The ODAA believes Measure 11 is working, noting that violent crime has dropped by more than 50 percent since Measure 11 was approved.
The following bills have been introduced in Salem:
• Senate Bill 425: Would repeal the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for persons under age 18 when the crime was committed.
• Senate Bill 469: Would remove second-degree assault from the list of crimes that require mandatory minimum sentences if the person was 15 or older at the time the crime was committed. Would require an additional element of previous acts of reckless behavior that manifests extreme indifference to the value of human life to rate a second-degree charge.
• Senate Bill 966: Would mandate a conditional-release hearing for persons serving time at the Oregon Youth Authority if they were under 18 when the offense was committed and their release date is after they are 25 years of age, but less than 27 years of age.
• Senate Bill 969: Would eliminate mandatory adult prosecution for certain offenses committed when person is 15, 16 or 17 years of age. Requires juvenile court to determine whether person should be prosecuted as an adult.
• Senate Bill 1007: Requires reduction of imprisonment for good conduct if the person had no prior convictions at time of sentencing.