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Oregon Capital Punishment Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized capital punishment, or the death penalty, in 1976 (Gregg v. Georgia) after a four-year moratorium. This case gave states the authority to reinstate capital punishment within their borders, and most did just that. Death sentences generally are reserved only for particularly heinous crimes, such as first-degree murder, but some states apply the death penalty to cases where someone was accidentally killed while the accused was committing another felony.

An Overview of Capital Punishment in Oregon

While capital punishment is technically legal in Oregon, the governor announced a moratorium in 2011 pending a review of the system. But even during the period between 1978 (when it was relegalized) and 2011, only two people were executed. Under Oregon statute, a capital offense is defined as murder with one or more aggravating factors. These factors include being paid for committing murder, having committed a prior offense of murder, and committing murder in the course of torturing the victim, to name a few.

Although the last execution carried out in Oregon was in 1997, the law provides for lethal injection as the preferred method (hanging was used until 1931, when lethal gas was adopted). Those under the age of 18 or mentally retarded may not be executed, as in all other states.

Additional details about Oregon's capital punishment provisions are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more articles and resources.

Code Section 137.080, et seq.; 137.473; 161.295, et seq.; 163.105, 163.150
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? By statute, yes, but a moratorium was put in place by the governor in 2011
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity Prohibits death penalty
Minimum Age 18
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? None
Definition of Capital Homicide In determining aggravating circumstances, court shall consider any evidence received during proceeding; presentence report; any other relevant evidence court deems trustworthy and reliable
Method of Execution Lethal injection

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, the opinions of appellate courts, or other means. Be sure to contact an Oregon criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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