The death penalty was first adopted in Oregon in 1864. Hangings were carried out publicly until 1903. Since 1904, about 60 persons have been executed in Oregon. There are currently 37 inmates on death row.
Oregon abolished the death penalty in 1914 via popular vote. It was reinstated again in 1920, also by popular vote. In 1964, Oregon voters once again voted to repeal the death penalty and once again voted for reinstatement in 1978. In 1981, the Oregon Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional, but Oregon voters reinstated capital punishment in 1984.
In Oregon, the first execution after the most recent reinstatement of the death penalty occurred in 1996. Efforts to end the use of the death penalty have been heating up as the state faces budget shortfalls. On November 22, 2011, Gov. John Kitzhaber halted all scheduled executions in the state by imposing an indefinite moratorium, calling the death penalty process “compromised and inequitable.”
Becky O’Neil McBrayer shares her personal story of loss, healing, and opposition to the death penalty. From the June 22, 2016 Annual Meeting of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.