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DAs call for clarity on Gov. Brown’s possible prison sentence reduction bill

Marquis one of eight prosecutors to sign letter
By Jack Heffernan

The Daily Astorian

Published on November 2, 2018 4:22PM

District Attorney Josh Marquis and other prosecutors have criticized Gov. Kate Brown over transparency.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

District Attorney Josh Marquis and other prosecutors have criticized Gov. Kate Brown over transparency.

District Attorney Josh Marquis and several other prosecutors have criticized Gov. Kate Brown on transparency just days before Tuesday’s election.

In an open letter signed by eight district attorneys, the prosecutors take issue with her administration’s unwillingness to disclose potential bills for the 2019 legislative session. Specifically, the letter points to a leaked concept of a bill that may call for prison sentence reductions for all state inmates.

In an unusual move, the administration has delayed releasing hundreds of proposals for bills until after the election, citing attorney-client privilege with the state Legislature’s lawyers. The documents would offer clarity about the administration’s planned policy changes — and how it intends to fund them — in 2019.

But a number of brief legislative concepts were leaked to The Oregonian, including one that says “adjusted release dates for all (state Department of Corrections) inmates.”

In the letter, the district attorneys express concern that the potential bill may allow all inmates to leave prison early.

“Our citizens have repeatedly voted for strong sentences for serious crime,” the letter states. “We believe any attempt to hide plans to cut sentences after the election is both duplicitous and undemocratic and would be rejected by Oregon voters.”

Brown, a Democrat, is in a close re-election campaign against state Rep. Knute Buehler, a Republican who has faulted her on transparency.

Marquis, a Democrat, has endorsed Buehler, but he said the letter is not meant to influence the election.

The district attorney, who is retiring in January, has long opposed major reductions in prison sentences, preferring “truth in sentencing.”

Brown’s administration should, “immediately release any legislative concepts that change voter approved limits on the early release of violent felons or others serving sentences handed down by judges in open court,” Marquis said in a statement.

The letter from prosecutors claims they have reached out to the governor’s office and that a staffer assured them that no legislation to reduce prison sentences would be proposed in 2019. “However this message was not public and not from our governor, only from one of her staff,” the letter states. “Therefore, we remained very concerned.”

Other prosecutors who signed the letter to Brown include Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny, who, like Marquis, have been critical of new laws that reduce sentences for drug and property crimes.

A Marion County judge ruled in October that the administration could not rely on its attorney-client privilege argument and ordered the public release of the bill proposals.

But the administration appealed, and shortly before the deadline to release the documents, the Oregon Court of Appeals granted a stay on the release until a final ruling. The court has said that the ruling will not come until after the election.


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