Letters and Statements on Measure 11

CRIME VICTIMS UNITED


Victims And Concerned Citizens Speak Out


On April 26, 2001, the Oregon House Subcommittee on Criminal Law held a hearing on House Bill 3934. HB 3934, proposed by Governor Kitzhaber, would significantly weaken Measure 11. The following is testimony given by Ronita Sutton in opposition to HB 3934. If your computer has the RealPlayer plug-in, you can hear this testimony. Click here and then fast-forward to time 01:30:00.

My name is Ronita Sutton. I'm a private citizen. I'm here because I heard about this and it really upset me to think that I have to go through and relive all of this again.

My son Christopher Sutton was murdered in '98. Excuse me, this can be a little difficult sometimes. He had just graduated from high school. But three weeks before leaving for college, a gang member mistakenly identified a car he thought belonged to a rival gang member and started shooting into it and shot and killed my son.

I would like to tell you a little bit about my son.

Christopher worked hard to always do the right thing. He was very athletic since the age of 7 years old. He was involved in basketball, baseball, football, so year round I was going to one sport or another.

I had two other children. I have another son who's a year older than Christopher.

Chris always stayed busy. Always doing the right thing. He studied hard to get good grades. He kept the company of good people.

He did not deserve what he got. As a matter of fact, it bothers me every day to think my son was shot and killed and never seen the face of the person who killed him.

Chris was a baby that had eczema. I don't know if any of you ever had children who had some medical problems, but sitting up all night with him until the age of five years old, and many, many sleepless nights. Many days and nights of going to practices, of just being a good parent. Working hard to do the things I was supposed to do.

I did not have the right to take the life of my child. Why did someone else have that right?

And it seems that the person who took that life is constantly being protected or some type of way, someone was always trying to get him off for what he did.

I am sentenced to a life, I am sentenced to a life of of suffering and punishment and I didn't do anything. My son is sentenced to a life . . . he has nothing - he is gone.

And all he did was work to be a good person and to do the right thing. And yet he's gone.

The person who murdered my son is in jail here in Salem. His mother has an hour to 45 minute drive to see her son, to talk to him, to hug him.

I will never be able to do that and my son didn't do anything to anybody.

The reality is, I have to live every day to looking at my son lie on a table after an autopsy. That's something I think about every day.

That is not something any parent should have to live through. To actually see your child's name on a headstone. And I know people may think I'm a little to emotional about it but that's the effect of crime on victims.

And it seems that victims have been forgotten about. I've heard a lot about criminals getting time for good credit. Will my son get time for good credit. Will I get time for good credit. I've done good things. Will I get time for that?

Now these people, they do wrong, and we're talking about letting them out for good time. They knew before they committed violent crimes, not crimes of selling drugs or victimless crimes - these crimes had victims - they knew that they were doing wrong.

But they didn't care that they were doing wrong. What they care about now is that they have to pay for the wrongs they did. Then we turn around and say "let them out for good behavior". Of course they're going to ask it. They want to get out to commit more crimes.

How many of them actually get out and turn their lives?  How many people are willing to take a chance on letting these people out to hurt other people?

I heard 10 percent, let them out, 10 percent, maybe 15 percent. That time a parent can have with their child, that 10 percent the person can spend in prison, that time is precious to a parent or a loved one of a victim.

I did not ask to be a victim. My son did not ask to be a victim. That is not one of the things he worked toward. But that is what he is now because of the act of another person.

My son was not the first victim. He had victimized many other people before he finally killed my son.

I spoke to a young girl that he had robbed who still will not work. He made her count down to ten and told her he was going to kill her. She has tried to commit suicide. She was not killed but the effect of what happened to her is still real.

I know that there are some changes that need to be made to Ballot Measure 11. But something this drastic is only victimizing victims like me again. I should not have to come every year to try to stop something like this.

I got involved with opposing Measure 94 because the thought of the person who killed my son, getting out early, getting out in 8 years after what he did? To me, I was being victimized all over again.

I have to spend the rest of my life trying to keep this person behind bars.

At what point do victims have some peace or can work to some peace and not have to continue to relive this over and over again.

I have to have visions of my son lying in a casket. I have to have visions of what he went through when he was shot.

This is hard. It's hard every day. It will probably be hard for the rest of my life.

He should have to pay for what he did to my son. Yes it may be hard. But his mother - she knew her son was a criminal. She turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to his activities like I have seen many parents have.

Then all of a sudden their children are arrested. Poor pitiful them - they're just children. My son was also a child.

If my children were committing a crimes, I would be the first to turn them in, because I would not allow them to hurt anyone, not one single soul.

My children know that they are accountable for their actions. Each and every one of us should be accountable. Measure 11 holds them accountable.

To think that this person could have gotten 10 years versus 25 years for killing my child. You don't know how difficult that is. 25 years is not a enough, but 10 years is a joke.

When I went to court, I was told that the judge there was one of the most lenient judges in Oregon. What comfort that is. The only comfort I have was Measure 11 - that he committed murder and for murder, he would get 25 years.

To leave it up to that judge who could have given him a lot less time? He doesn't have to live with my pain. He doesn't have to live with my suffering and the loss of my child. I do.

To know that there is a law in place that will put him in jail for 25 years for killing my son and for anyone else who commits that same type of crime. To me that is only fair.

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On September 22, 2000, this letter from Crime Victims United's Debra Oyamada appeared in The Oregonian under the heading "Boys Aren't Sent To State Prison".

Concerning Rita E. Thomas' letter about the state penitentiary and "boys," I question the motives of Thomas for writing it and of The Oregonian for printing it. That was irresponsible journalism. She implied that there was a boy in the penitentiary who was 14 ("...I was shocked to see a boy in prison garb who looked about 14.") Well, he wasn't.

There are no 14-year-old boys in the state penitentiary. That's against the law.

Facts: All youths sentenced, Measure 11 or not, go to the Oregon Youth Authority, not adult prison. They receive education, counseling and treatment. The only way they go to prison is if they assault another youth, refuse all treatment or become 18 and insist on being transferred to adult prison.

As of Aug. 1, there were exactly seven "Measure 11 youths" in adult prison because they've been assaultive or incorrigible. They are segregated from adults.

Read the facts about Measure 11 at www.crimevictimsunited.org. Please stop propagating fiction.

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On August 20, 2000, The Oregonian ran this opinion piece by Robert Blacksmith under the title "Mandatory Sentencing Works".

Measure 94 seeks to repeal the mandatory sentencing law, Measure 11, passed by a vast majority of the voters in 1994. Since that time, gang activity, recidivism and violent crimes have all seen sharp declines, especially among youth. This is no coincidence.

Measure 11 works. Certainly it needs further revision, as the Legislature has previously allowed. But repealing is not revising. There are already enough loopholes in the law, such as demonstrated in your article about the woman convicted of assault who received probation (July 5).

As a voter in Oregon, I'm frustrated by these misguided attempts to take the law out of the hands of honest citizens. As a worker in the juvenile corrections field, I'm horrified by the implications if such a law should pass. Vote no on Measure 94.

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On August 19, 2000, The Oregonian ran an edited version of this opinion piece by Howard Rodstein under the title "Criminals Would Be Let Go Early".

I appreciate very much your editorial of 8/11/2000 regarding the wisdom of withholding bail in certain criminal cases. What makes the case of the little boy whose throat was slashed by an accused molester on bail even more appalling than an "ordinary horror" is the fact that the state had the criminal defendant in custody and chose to release him.

This fall a similar decision will be made, except that it will affect not one violent criminal but 3000. And the decision is not in the hands of a judge, but in the hands of the voters of Oregon. If Measure 11 is repealed, the sentences of a majority of the 3000 most violent criminals in the state will be reduced and many will be reduced by as much as one-third to one-half.

If these violent criminals are released early, some will commit crimes. Some will commit heinous crimes. But we can prevent this - if we will.

I implore the voters of Oregon to keep in mind that the lives and limbs of innocent people hang in the balance. I pray that they will reject Measure 94.

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On July 18, 2000, The Oregonian ran this opinion piece by Howard Rodstein under the title "Attempt To Repeal Measure 11 Hurts Innocent People".

In November 1994, the voters of Oregon convincingly approved Measure 11, an initiative that set minimum sentences for the most serious crimes including robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, manslaughter, attempted murder and murder.

This vote was a response to decades of leniency that replaced the principles of personal accountability and fitting punishment with rationalization and unfulfilled promises of rehabilitation. Innocent people paid for this leniency, some with their lives.

Since the passage of Measure 11, violent crime in Oregon has been on the decline. There is no way to determine how much of this trend is due to Measure 11, but some things we can say with certainty: The measure has kept thousands of violent criminals off the streets; criminals know serious crimes will result in serious punishment.

Now a group of people -- criminals and their relatives, criminal defense attorneys and others -- is asking the voters of Oregon to repeal Measure 11. Measure 94, which qualified for the November ballot on Friday, would replace the law with the pre-existing system known as "sentencing guidelines." The initiative requires that all people sentenced under Measure 11 be resentenced within 90 days under the more lenient system. As of May, this applies to 3,126 criminals, including 429 sentenced for assault, 140 for kidnapping, 286 for rape, 169 for manslaughter, 137 for attempted murder and 98 for murder.

The minimum sentences for violent crimes under sentencing guidelines are approximately one-third of the corresponding Measure 11 sentences. For example, the minimum prison term for a forcible rape is two years and five months compared to eight years and four months. For murder, it is eight years compared to 25 years. If your daughter were raped or your husband murdered, which sentence would you find fitting?

What would it cost to repeal Measure 11? Large numbers of violent criminals would have their sentences sharply reduced. Many hundreds would be released within 90 days. Subsequent sentences for the most violent crimes would be dramatically cut. Respect for law would be sharply diminished. Additional innocent people would become victims of robbery, assault, rape and murder.

Proponents of Measure 11 know it's not perfect. That's why in 1997 we gave our strong support to legislation, known as Senate Bill 1049, under which judges can grant exemption from Measure 11 to offenders convicted of Assault II, Robbery II and Kidnapping II who have no prior convictions for serious crimes. Exemption is available in cases without aggravating factors, such as the use of a deadly weapon.

In the last three legislative sessions we have proposed modifications to Measure 11 sentences in the area of age-related sex crimes, and we remain ready to support such responsible adjustments. This is a far cry from the position of Measure 11 opponents, who want to slash sentences.

In promoting the repeal initiative, Measure 11 opponents have fostered misconceptions and made outright misrepresentations. Measure 11 does not cover property crimes, routine fistfights or drug crimes. Youths aged 15 to 17 are not routinely housed with adult offenders. And contrary to the statement of a chief petitioner of the repeal initiative, repeal will indeed result in the resentencing and release of hundreds of violent criminals within 90 days of the election.

This November the voters of Oregon will decide to maintain serious consequences for violent crimes or to go back to leniency. Make your decision based on what's best for innocent people.

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On May 25, 2000, Steve Doell, President of Crime Victims United, spoke at the Hillsboro Rotary Club about the initiative to repeal Measure 11. Also speaking was Representative Jo Ann Bowman, who is a chief petitioner for the repeal initiative. Here is what Steve Doell said:

Measure 11 Serious Sentences for Serious Crimes

Six years ago two-thirds of Oregon voters decided that people like Andrew Whitaker, the teenage killer who deliberately ran down and murdered my 12-year-old daughter Lisa, should do more time that the 3 year prison sentence he received.

The judge in that case was giving Whitaker the maximum sentence he had the power to impose. So when Representative Bowman tells you that Measure 11 takes discretion away from judges, you might want to ask her how much discretion did the judge have when he sentenced Whitaker.

Before Measure 11. The answer is . . . none.

Before Measure 11 judges had discretion only to grant lesser sentences. Measure 11 simply establishes some fundamental baselines.

Opponents claim Measure 11 sentences are unfair. What kind of outrageous and unfair sentences? For the violent rape of a woman 8 1/2 years in prison. For manslaughter the penalty is 6 years, 3 months. Before Measure 11 the absolute maximum discretionary sentence a judge could impose for that violent rape was 6 years in prison. Is that justice?

But perhaps more important is the misnamed campaign Ms. Bowman is helping lead that they call "Citizens For Measure 11 Reform". Make no mistake about it, they have no intention of reforming Measure 11.

The measure they have submitted for the November ballot not only completely repeals Measure 11, it is also retroactive back to 1995. That means all 3100 plus of Oregon's worst criminals must be brought back to court within 90 days of the passage of the measure. Judges will have no discretion in hundreds of cases to do anything but order their immediate release. Juvenile killers like Kip Kinkel will have to be taken back to juvenile court where victims and prosecutors will have to try again to have him held as an adult and kept in prison. Regardless of what you think of mandatory sentences, this proposal is a nightmare for victims, courts, and taxpayers.

Measure 11 has been acknowledged by many as being one of the reasons our state's violent crime rate is down. Sure, there are other reasons, but as USA Today said just three weeks ago (5/9/2000), one of the main reasons crime is down across America is because criminals are being effectively prosecuted and getting longer prison sentences.

Let's dispose of some serious myths about Measure 11. Measure 11 is not about drug offenders. Even repeat drug dealers in Oregon rarely go to prison at all. Don't confuse federal mandatory drug sentences with Measure 11 that mandates prison for only the worst class A and B felons who molest, seriously injure, or kill their victims.

Measure 11 is not about property offenses not even burglaries committed with weapons in an occupied home. Ms. Bowman has posited what she calls the bicycle thief example a story so fictional that she has yet to respond to my challenge to her to name a single case where a teenager or an adult has gone to prison [under Measure 11] for the theft of property.

Let's first talk about what Measure 11 is about. It is about rape, manslaughter, robbery, and murder. Only crimes which involve sexual assault, crimes against children, serious injury, weapons and death.

Opponents of Measure 11 have tried to claim that 60 percent of Measure 11 defendants are "first-time offenders." But what they don't tell you is that the definitions of first offender would not include a man convicted of three drunk driving charges and two counts of domestic assault. They also will tell you that 98 percent of juveniles sentenced under Measure 11 have no record. But what they don't tell you is that definition excludes juveniles with a record of sodomizing younger children. These definitions according to the Department of Corrections of Oregon.

Let's look at what these same opponents said about Measure 11 when it came before the voters six years ago. They warned that we would have to basically stop building schools so we could begin massive prison construction to house what they claimed would be 6000 Measure 11 prisoners. Well, we're five years down the road. You know how many new prisons we've built, not just since Measure 11, but in the past decade? . . . One.

The total inmates serving Measure 11 sentences has turned out to be 3000, half of whom would be in prison anyway, just for shorter periods of time.

Ms. Bowman would have you believe we're throwing fresh-faced youngsters in with veteran inmates. Let's talk facts. Of the 3000 rapists, child molesters, and killers doing Measure 11 time, less than 10 percent were under age 18 when sentenced. As of last count, less than ten criminals under age 18 convicted of serious Measure 11 felonies are doing time at the adult Department of Corrections rather than the Oregon Youth Authority.

Oregon, under the guidance of former attorney general now Supreme Court justice Ted Kulongoski changed Oregon's juvenile justice system so that juveniles convicted of even serious crimes like first-degree sexual abuse can serve their entire sentence in a youth authority facility, where there are extensive opportunities for treatment and education. The only way to move from OYA to DOC is if the prisoner repeatedly, violently acts out and threatens others.

Is Measure 11 tough? Yes. But is 6 years a cruel and unusual punishment for killing someone while high on drugs with a car? No.

Measure 11 is nothing like the much-tougher two or three strikes laws that our neighbor states to the north and south have enacted to deal with the same kinds of criminals that Measure 11 deals with. Ms. Bowman likes to say that Measure 11 is one strike and you're out. In some cases she's right. The first time you rape a child you go to prison. The first time you kill someone you go to prison.

Who is really behind this bizarre attempt to turn back the clock on criminal justice? It is primarily white, middle-class Moms who are trying to spring their sons from prison. Sons who in the days before Measure 11 could hire the best lawyers, flood a courtroom with sympathizers, and convince a judge to give them a break . . . a break their victims didn't get.

Who are the victims of these crimes? Far out of proportion to the general population, the victims are poor people, women, children, and people of color. Measure 11 is truly color blind. It doesn't matter who you are, if you are convicted of manslaughter, it doesn't matter who you know. Measure 11 returns a measure of justice to a system that has been out of balance for far too long. Let's not go back to the bad old days.

The organization Crime Victims United joined with proponents of Measure 11 to give judges the ability to drop out of Measure 11 for people convicted of a felony assault, robbery and kidnapping as long as they met certain criteria. We stand willing, along with Oregon's elected district attorneys, to continue to refine what we know is a good law that protects Oregon's communities and children.

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On August 25,1997, Donna Mainord was attacked and stabbed many times. She nearly lost her life. Her attacker was a juvenile - her son John. He was convicted of attempted murder.

Here is the victim's impact statement that Donna made at the sentencing hearing on November 23, 1998.

I, Donna Marie Mainord, wish to make this statement to my son, John Anthony Lawrence and to the Court of Linn County:

To my son, John:

I keep thinking back to what you said to me a couple of days before the attack. You said, "You don't know me, Mom." You were right. I don't know you. Not at all. I never thought that you, of all people, were capable of hurting someone. Especially your own mother. I've asked myself, others and God why would you do this? The only answer I've found is you did this because you wanted to. This answer frightens me. If you could do this to your mother I wonder at what you could do to someone you don't know? What else have you done? I wonder if I'm the first person you've hurt.

I'm sure you realize now that I couldn't write because of my injuries. As the "witness" I shouldn't have visited you at jail. So not visiting or not writing to you isn't because I don't love you, John. But I didn't know what to say to you. The very first letter you wrote to me, you told me to go down the DA's office and say whatever I had to say to get the District Attorney to drop the charges. In the few letters that followed you didn't ask how I was. Not until several months later did you even ask how I was doing. You showed no remorse for what you did. You showed no concern what-so-ever for my welfare. I've wondered who you would have been writing to if I hadn't have lived?

I hear you've told some people that the reason you did this to me was because your girlfriend was pregnant. I hear you've told some people you tried to kill me because I abused you mentally. I hear you've told some people that your grandfather, uncle and everyone else molested you and abused you, starved and neglected you. I hear you've told some people that you were adopted. I understand that you'd probably say just about anything to get yourself out of the place you're in now. I understand that some people might even believe you. But you and I know the truth. The truth is you were never abused, or molested, never starved or neglected, nor are you adopted. The truth is you planned on killing me and the rest of the family. The truth is you enjoyed hurting me.

I hear that you became involved with the White Supremacist and that they were threatening to kill you when you decided to leave their flock. Maybe this is true. But I don't know what's true and what's not true anymore. I've heard so many contradicting things. The thing I do know is you have always had a loving family around you. A family that supported you and cared about you. I know, and you know, that if you'd sat down and said, "Mom. I'm in really bad trouble. I've gotten myself into something and I don't know how to deal with it." You would have had help. Even if that meant flying you to another country. You would have had help.

You were raised with strong values. You know what good and bad is. You know what's right and what's wrong. You know that there are consequences to the choices you make in life. You chose to attack me. You chose to hurt me. And I can't help you now. It's out of my hands. In one letter you asked me if I thought you'd gone too far this time. Yes. You went too far. Just as you chose to "go to far" in that direction, so you have the choice to go the other direction. You can choose you make something positive out of your life.

I want you to know that what you've done has made an enormous impact on more than you and me. Your grandparents. They lost you, and they almost lost me. The first night I was in the hospital, the Doctors told Mom and Dad not to expect me to make it. Mom was so grief stricken with all of this she wouldn't eat. I know this contributed to how quickly her illness overcame her. At least she didn't suffer long before she died. Tannen is six now. He's also in counseling. You remember how he wanted to do everything you did and be just like you. Now he has nightmares that you will come into his house and kill him and his little sister Kira.

I wish you had made other choices in your life. The Mom in me wants to hold you and tell you that everything will be all right. But the person in me can never, ever trust you again.

I do forgive you. That doesn't mean that what you did is OK. Because it's not OK. It will never be OK. I can forgive you. I will always love you, John. I can also love you from a distance. I wish you well in your life. I hope the best for you. And I want you to understand that you'll never be welcome in my life again because I will never, ever trust you again.

To the Court I would like to say the following:

Your Honor,

I have made people and their actions a life long study. Trying to figure out why people do the things they do, I've learned that there are two reasons for their actions. One, because they want too. And Two, because they think they can get away with it.

We've had several terrible crimes committed throughout the country this last year with teens killing parents, their peers and teachers, and strangers. I've noticed almost all these kids have one thing in common. They're extremely intelligent. I think each of these kids believed they would not suffer the consequences to their deeds. And if they were arrested, they believe that they can appeal the courts' decisions and have the case rejected and then they can go back to having an ordinary life. That they'll go back to the same life, same friends, same everything, and they'll live as though nothings changed. If these kids believe that their deeds have no consequences, then we are to blame. We're to blame for not letting them see what the consequences are to the crime they've committed. We're to blame for not imposing punishments that the criminal does not want to pay.

John is a very intelligent person. I underestimated that fact. I pray the Court does not. He's capable of tapping into neighbors phone line's and running up over $1000 in long distance charges. He was stealing my car. I think that had happened more than once. He just finally got caught. He's a very convincing liar. He told me that he and a friend had "hacked" into a computer system over a year ago. I didn't believe John then, because John was always coming up with outlandish stories. He'd tell huge tales and then he'd say, "just kidding, Mom. You know I'd never do that...." Now I believe he and his friend did hack into someone's computer system. I understand he is on a computer at the Jail. I would like the court to keep into consideration what I just said. If he could hack into a computer system over a year ago, what could he do now?

John is charming, witty, polite and entertaining when he chooses. He can be such a wonderful person. Everyone loved John. I believed what my son told me and it almost cost me my life. John tried to take from me the only thing I really own. My life. I'm lucky. Very lucky that I can use my hands at all. I'm lucky I'm not blind, or in a wheel chair, or that I'm not like Christopher Reeves, or worse. I fought to stay alive with everything I had. The one thought that kept me going was, "God, please don't let me die before someone knows what John did." I'm so thankful that it was me that he attacked instead of someone else. It could have been an elderly person or a child. They wouldn't have made it. I don't think I could have handled it if John had hurt or killed someone else. This has been hard enough. That would have been worse. Because I love my son, I couldn't hurt him. If the police had not come when they did, I would have let him kill me. I was lucky, that's all.

As much as I love my son I must ask the court to realize that what John did was premeditated. He hurt me with relish. If he could do this to me, I ask the court to think about what he could do to someone he doesn't even know. I ask the court to please think about the people in the future who don't know what he did and who could be potential victims because of his charm and wit. People who would trust him. And who he could hurt. Maybe kill.

I've looked deeply at myself as a parent. I've asked myself what I did wrong, what didn't I do, what did I do ....? I know I did the best I knew how to do. We all do that as parents. I followed what the experts said. And I now know that I never did know my son, and this frightens me. I know I'm not responsible for John's choice ... and yet, as a mother, I do feel responsible.

I don't know of anything I've ever had to do that has torn me the way preparing this statement has. One part of me wants to stand by my son, the other part knows John needs to accept his punishment. The hardest thing I've ever had to do is to look myself in the eyes in a mirror and admit to myself that I gave birth to a person who can kill. To someone who can hurt others. And because of this reality I have to ask the court to sentence John with the knowledge that John is accountable and responsible for what he did to me. To protect others and to protect me, lock John away. The rest of my family and friends of my family deserve to be protected. John has done a terrible thing. He may choose to do this again. At 16, and younger, a person knows Murder is wrong. John knows murder is wrong. He also knows hurting someone is wrong. He was taught about Laws and consequences and values. And yet he still chose to hurt me anyway, with no remorse, and no guilt on his conscious.

I ask the court to sentence John to the maximum the law allows, for as long as the law will allow. If John needs to be the symbol that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in this State and in this Country, so be it. Use John as the example. Protect my family, my friends, society, and me. Perhaps an "example" will stop more crimes of this type.

Thank you, Donna M. Mainord

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Jayne Ferlitsch is a member of Crime Victims United. Her father-in-law and niece (Martin and Jennifer Ferlitsch) were killed by a man who is serving 16 years in prison under Measure 11. Their killer, James Lincoln Willie, had previously killed two people while driving drunk. He served less than three years and killed again on July 18, 1999.

An abbreviated version of this opinion piece from Jayne Ferlitsch appeared in The Oregonian on 4/29/2000.

So Katherine Riley (In My Opinion, April 19) wants you to believe that the majority of Measure 11 convicts are adolescent first-time offenders? She's not telling you the real story.

In a study made in Oregon's largest county, Multnomah, fifty Measure 11 cases were surveyed. Of the fifty, 84 percent had prior criminal records. Those who were "first-time offenders" were in prison because it was the "first time" they had sodomized a 9-year-old or the "first time" they kidnapped and raped a 13-year-old at gunpoint.

Riley tries to imply that all kinds of youngsters are being hurled into adult prisons for a little youthful indiscretion. This is sheer nonsense! Do you know what kind of "youngster" is prosecuted under Measure 11? Kip Kinkle. He could have walked out of a juvenile hall at age 25 if it were not for Measure 11.

In most cases where a 16-year-old could be prosecuted under Measure 11, prosecutors have offered plea bargains that give the young criminal the chance to spend their entire sentence in an Oregon Youth Authority facility, not an adult prison.

In fact, there are less than 30 persons under the age of 18 in adult prisons, and each one of them had to repeatedly act out to prove they were just too dangerous to be housed with truly "youthful offenders." And as for drug and alcohol treatment? Riley says nothing is being done for those incarcerated. Another lie. Juvenile offenders do receive drug and alcohol counseling. Their health needs are comprehensively taken are of-- far more than that of the crime victims.

Riley passes off the serious violent felonies of Measure 11 as "mistakes" made by vulnerable youth that have had their brain development "inhibited" by drugs and alcohol. I do not consider driving while intoxicated and killing someone a mere "mistake"-it is murder. I do not consider having sex with a 6-year-old a "mistake"-it is child abuse of the worst kind. Contrary to what Riley would have you believe, Measure 11 has NOTHING to do with people convicted of drug offenses, property crimes, or even felony domestic violence. It has to do with rape, sexual abuse, manslaughter, robbery and murder.

Riley also makes the bizarre statement that Measure 11 applies "to those who are simply in the presence of someone who commits a violent action." You cannot be convicted of ANY crime in Oregon just for being "in the presence" of someone who commits a crime. A judge or jury has to decide that a person helped plan or carry out the crime to be charged as an accomplice. Our law is no different than that of Nevada, where a college student watched his friend molest and then murder a young girl in a casino bathroom. The "observer" was never charged with a crime. Why? Because you can't be charged for just "being there."

Riley makes the claim that Measure 11 "narrowly passed" back in 1994. Another untruth. More than 66 percent of voters said they were fed up with lenient sentences for child molesters, rapists, armed robbers and murderers. Every single time an Oregon appeals court has reviewed a Measure 11 sentence, it has upheld the sentence. Measure 11 sentences mean that at long last, victims are assured that the person who raped, robbed, kidnapped or killed will actually do prison time. Oregon's laws, even with Measure 11, are still much more lenient than any of our neighboring states.

Crime Victims United has made sure that judges CAN drop below Measure 11 sentences for less serious cases of Second Degree Assault, Second Degree Robbery or Second Degree Kidnapping. We also support some modifications to give judges more discretion in the area of age related sex crimes.

But Riley would urge Oregonians to sign onto an attempt to repeal Measure 11 at a time when we have seen a significant drop in violent crime. She doesn't tell you that every single person sentenced under Measure 11 would be re-sentenced under the older, more lenient rules. More than 1000 violent felons would be eligible for IMMEDIATE release-and the bulk of them are sex offenders.

Mandatory minimum sentencing was never designed for minor violations--don't let Katherine Riley or any other anti-Measure 11 propaganda convince you of that. Let's start talking the truth when we debate Measure 11. There will always be "first-time offenders"-but keep Measure 11 to protect innocent Oregonians from becoming "first-time victims." I wouldn't wish this nightmare on my worst enemy.

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This letter from Robert Blacksmith appeared in The Oregonian on 4/24/2000.

In response to Katherine Riley's opinion piece in The Oregonian ("Required minimum sentences harm our adolescents," April 19), I'd like to call attention to the feelings of the several thousand Oregonians who helped pass Measure 11 and support it still.

While a risky adolescent on the street might be good for the business of people in the behavior-study field, they are deadly to regular citizens. Those of us who worked for this measure knew exactly what we were doing, and we applauded when the legislature increased the number of eligible crimes. We are not vindictive, uncaring ogres. We are parents who care more about our innocent children than about the wants and needs of a handful of drug-abusing sociopaths. We are realistic people who know that no one is jailed because they "just happened" to be be in the presence of a person who committed a violent act; they put themselves there and most likely contributed to the violence until the police came, at which point they switched to their "victim mode."

Workers in the juvenile corrections field see these youth every day. We see their intricate criminal thought processes, and we see the benefits of a longer jail term. The extra time Measure 11 has afforded us gives these youth a chance to change their mindset and accept our efforts at rehabilitation. Many of these youth are already hardened criminals. They have come from dysfunctional environments, hung out with dangerous crowds and been detained if not incarcerated several times before their Measure 11 offenses ever occurred.

When Riley and the rest of her well-meaning counselor colleagues close up their offices at night and go home, they do so more safely, thanks to Measure 11. If they really knew these youth and put their minds ahead of their hearts, they'd have to admit that they'd rather have these criminals, adolescents or not, sleeping behind bars.

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This letter from Robert Blacksmith appeared in The Oregonian on 2/10/2000.

In answer to Cathi Lawler's letter opposing Measure 11 ("First-timers harshly punished," Feb. 4), let me clear a few things up for her.

That many offenders have never been convicted before does not mean that they have spent their lives singing in the church choir. Working at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility, I see in every file arrest after arrest and suspended sentence after suspended sentence.

While these criminals and their enablers are crying for a "second chance," they've already had multiple chances.

Good citizens don't get themselves into the situation of being convicted of crimes, and good parents don't let their kids fall into that lifestyle.

My job with these incarcerated youth mostly involves undoing years of bad parenting. The only thing cruel and unusual is the sad future they've set their kids up for.

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This letter from Crime Victims United President Steve Doell appeared in The Oregonian on 12/22/1999.

Two recent references to Measure 11 deserve comment.

First, in a discussion of falling crime rates, you rightly cite Measure 11 as one of the factors responsible for the decrease.

However, although recent falling crime rates are a positive result of tougher laws such as Measure 11, the good news needs to be put in perspective: In 1960, there were 3,384,200 serious crimes reported in this country; in 1997, after the downward trend started, there were 13,176,100. This is about a 400 percent increase, 10 times the population increase during that period.

This is something you and the rest of the media should emphasize when you report the good news. We need to continue to be tough with laws such as Measure 11 if we are going to get back to where we were.

Second, you published a letter from Lorraine Heller asserting that "a majority of defendants" convicted under Measure 11 are first-time offenders. Heller, the mother of a convicted criminal, is wrong.

According to a recent survey I obtained under the state public records law, 84 percent of Measure 11 offenders had prior criminal records. Of those who did not, their crimes included forcible rape, aggravated vehicular homicide and gunpoint stranger-to-stranger robberies.

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This letter from Howard Rodstein appeared in The Oregonian on 5/15/1999.

The article on Measure 11 sentencing in the case of Tom Curtis, Ethan Thrower and others ("Grant High cases reflect new era of plea deals," May 3) indicates that Measure 11 is working as the voters intended.

I voted for Measure 11 because I was disgusted by our judicial system's releasing violent felons after they had served half their sentences, to prey on innocent people again.

I wanted to take flexibility away from judges and parole boards. I and the two-thirds of Oregon voters who supported Measure 11 wanted a stiffer justice system that criminals took seriously. This is exactly what we have gotten.

The evidence against the defendants in the case was strong and they chose to plea-bargain. There is nothing new in this. The only thing new is that the worst offenders received longer sentences - sentences appropriate to the seriousness of their crimes.

In Measure 11, we have a law that makes violent criminals do serious time for their serious crimes. Criminals and would-be criminals are learning about it. It has started to pay dividends. If we continue to firmly support it, Measure 11 will continue to spare innocent people the horror of violent crime.

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This editorial, written by Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk, appeared in The Oregonian on 3/3/1999.

The "In my opinion" piece of Feb. 20 ("Measure 11: Oregon has been swept up by its web" by Portland lawyer Emily Simon) made several unfortunate misstatements about how Measure 11 operates. In particular, it incorrectly asserted that if Measure 11 had been in effect in 1991, Damon Stoudamire would have received a lengthy mandatory prison sentence.

First, the Stoudamire case. My office handled it, and I am personally familiar with the actual facts. The case was never tried as the article asserted; rather it was diverted. Also, under current law, Stoudamire's actions - while wrong and more serious than the "food fight" portrayed by the article - would probably not constitute an Assault 2 (second-degree assault). In any event, the case certainly would have qualified for reduction to a non-Measure 11 charge under my office's policies. Thus, if the case occurred today, it would not result in a mandatory prison sentence under Measure 11.

And, of most importance to an accurate understanding of Measure 11, even if Stoudamire was convicted of Assault 2 today on these facts, Measure 11 would allow a judge to place him on probation and sentence him to restitution and community service.

In similar fashion, the article's assertion that the majority of "Measure 11 prosecutions are for unarmed robberies and for assaults involving no permanent injury" is extremely misleading. Under Oregon law, most nonfatal gunshot wounds are not considered "permanent" injury to the victim. I am sure many of the victims who are shot find the injury serious and "permanent."

Under Oregon law, robberies with a gun are "unarmed" if it cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the gun was loaded. Unfortunately, most armed robbers do not remain at the scene for a gun check. And, the public should know, a judge does have discretion not to impose a prison sentence and can even give probation for truly unarmed robberies and assaults if the defendant has not committed a violent felony before and where the injury is not significant.

I also disagree with the article's implication that Oregon's locally elected district attorneys have unwisely exercised their discretion under Measure 11. Since it went into effect, my office has reviewed 4,617 possible Measure 11 cases against adults and juveniles. That review is a multi-step and professional process that in most cases includes the following: an examination of a probable-cause affidavit by a judge before the case is sent to our offices, a review of the case by an experienced prosecutor in consultation with the victim and the police under written guidelines that expressly exclude race and sex as factors for consideration, and an examination under oath of witnesses by the seven ordinary citizens who sit on the grand jury.

The result of that process is that nearly half, 42 percent, of the cases were rejected. The remaining 2,630 cases were indicted under Measure 11.

The review process does not end there. These cases are all reviewed by groups of prosecutors with an average of more than 10 years of experience along with one of my chief deputies. They are required to follow well-established and written guidelines. The intent of the group review is to openly identify cases where there might be doubt about the defendant's guilt or where there is information that would show the Measure 11 sentence would be too harsh. Some cases are completely dismissed, and in others the charges are reduced as a result of this review.

Of the cases concluded by conviction, 50 percent have been convicted of the Measure 11 crime they were charged with, 27 percent have been convicted of another crime and given a lesser sentence, and 23 percent had at least one Measure 11 count dismissed. Each of these defendants has been afforded all the constitutional rights our system provides - including the right to a lawyer, a jury trial if they want one, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, the recent "In my opinion" piece did not present this picture. Instead, it was regrettably another in a series of inaccurate and misleading public statements by those seeking to repeal Measure 11. As I have noted before, the public should insist that assertions regarding Measure 11 are backed up by specific and verifiable facts.

Any changes that are made should be based on fair, honest and open debate. It is my hope that future articles concerning Measure 11 will contribute to that debate with accurate information.

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This letter from Prosecutor Donna Meeks Kelly appeared in The Oregonian on 3/16/1999.

I commend your publication for helping to correct inaccurate and misleading information concerning Oregon's mandatory minimum sentences in serious and violent crimes and would like to add a bit of information to that already offered by Multnomah County District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk ("In my opinion, March 3).

I believe that swift and severe punishment like that mandated by Ballot Measure 11 is an effective deterrent for criminal behavior. As a small bit of proof, I offer an event that recently happened here.

A police officer was investigating a violent crime. One suspect he spoke with was a young man he had encountered before. As he questioned him, the young man figured out that he was considered a suspect, and exclaimed "I would never do that! That's a Ballot Measure 11 crime. You do real time for that!"

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This letter, written by Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Norm Frink, appeared in The Oregonian on 4/26/98.

Readers of Margie Boule's two columns regarding vehicular manslaughter defendant Joel Wilson (April 5, April 12) should know they did not get the complete story.

The columns contained two fundamental untruths about the case. First, under the terms of his recent plea, Wilson will serve only 1 1/2 years (the last six months in boot camp). This does not seem excessive punishment for an underage drinker who was driving from bar to bar with more than twice the legal limit (0.19 percent) of alcohol in his body, endangering everyone else on the road and killing his friend when he launched his truck into the air, hitting some trees before landing in a creek. In fact, it would seem fair punishment for a person who has also racked up three speeding tickets and another ticket for running a stop light and who helped cut open a safe stolen in a residential burglary.

Second, it is not true that our office did not consult with the victim's family. There was a vigorous exchange of views that continues to this day, particularly with the victim's stepfather, a former criminal defense attorney. We listened to their views and, as a result, the sentence Wilson is receiving is considerably lighter than it could have been.

Unfortunately, the urge by some to bash Measure 11 is so great that critical statements about it are repeated without confirmation. This has happened several times in the Oregonian.

Measure 11 is not perfect. Our office sponsored changes in it last year, and more modifications need to be made. But it has done a world of good for most crime victims and it has struck serious violent crime an effective blow.

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This letter from Ken Chapman, a parole officer with decades of experience appeared in The Oregonian on 4/8/98.

Regarding Jewel Goddard's March 25 opinion piece, those who are repeating the mantra of "getting smart on youth crime" helped support the inept and ill-fated policy of downsizing juvenile institutions, which resulted in the reduction of Oregon's juvenile incarceration capacity from 750 in 1970 to just over 500 early in the '90's.

Even with the current expansion to 1,139 "secure beds," the state still has less incarceration capacity per capita than it did in 1970. The result is that juvenile criminals who have multiple felonies and who have failed at numerous diversion programs still cannot be committed to correctional facilities.

The gist of Goddard's article was the Measure 11 is too restrictive and puts significant numbers of juvenile offenders under mandatory minimum sentences that are overly harsh and wasteful of resources. The most current data, however, show that only 14 percent of those juveniles arrested for Measure 11 offenses actually got sentenced under Measure 11. The rest of the cases either are dismissed or are dealt with as lesser offenses. The 14 percent who are sentenced represent the most dangerous offenders - just the sort that the public envisioned when they voted for the law.

As a juvenile probation officer for 26 years and a member of the governor's ad-hoc Committee on Senate Bill 1 and Juvenile Crime, [I believe] Measure 11 was an admittedly blunt instrument, but that is what it took to turn the system around. There are areas of the law to be fine-tuned, but the public would be poorly served to have those changes be based on the views of those who helped hamstring the juvenile justice system during the past 20 years.

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This letter from Larry Ward appeared in The Oregonian on 12/29/97.

It was reported that several youths in Hillsboro sought revenge on a Christmas tree salesman and attacked him with a baseball bat.

Several of the youths were heard at school plotting revenge. Then they followed through with their boastful chatter.

Down the road, we will read that several youths will be arrested and charged with assault. Mothers will appeal to the press that their boys are good boys and the system is tearing up their families, and that Measure 11 is too harsh.

Measure 11 is tough. It was designed to be tough. Children, and society, need to understand that there are consequences for bad choices and bad behavior. Punishment needs to be swift and sure. It also needs to be meaningful.

I do not mind paying for the incarceration of criminals, even if it takes putting a prison in someone's back yard.

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This letter from Howard Rodstein appeared in The Oregonian on 8/30/97.

Ed Whitelaw's profoundly wrong-headed views about crime and punishment ("Dumb on crime", Aug. 20) stem from one thing: He sees crime victims as statistics, not as innocent people.

The voters are not satisfied to see the rate of violent crime remain at its current obscene level. No, we are not satisfied with prison terms eliminated by probation or shortened by parole. We want to protect innocent people - all of them - and we are willing to incarcerate anyone who commits a violent crime to achieve this goal.

Because increasing incarceration has not led to a reduction in the crime rate, Whitelaw would have us believe that increasing incarceration serves no purpose. This is hogwash. The more violent people that we let out of prison, the more innocent victims we will have.

Whitelaw's reasoning, that a steady crime rate proves increasing incarceration does not work, is transparently specious.

Whitelaw accuses Oregonians of "getting tough on children" and "dumb on criminals". Releasing violent criminals, whether adults or juveniles, is tough on innocent children. Whitelaw's version of criminal justice is more than dumb - it is criminally reckless.

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This letter from Susan Panek appeared in the Oregonian on 8/10/97.

In July 1995, my only child, Yolanda Panek, was murdered by her former partner, two weeks after her 21st birthday. This brutal act occurred in the presence of their then 2-year-old son. My daughter's body has yet to be recovered.

I cannot explain the trauma and grief of losing a child by homicide. The pain is ever present. My sole motivation to continue has been a promise to my daughter that I would raise her son if this crime were committed and my deep love for this precious little boy.

The justice system cannot compensate for the loss of a child. But by fair, just and equitable sentencing, it lends value to the victim's life and some peace to the surviving family. I commend Oregonians for taking a stand against crime and supporting Measure 11.

To Portland homicide detectives Derek Anderson and George Young, and Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Rod Underhill, my eternal gratitude. Due to their tireless efforts and personal commitment, and the passage of Measure 11, this murderer will serve a minimum of 25 years of a life sentence.

Susan Panek

If Measure 11 is repealed, the murderer of Yolanda Panek would be resentenced under pre-existing sentencing guidelines.


This editorial, written by Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk, appeared in The Oregonian on 7/14/97.

Recent letters to the editor and an "In my opinion" column have misled your readers about the effect of Measure 11, the way it has been administered by the district attorney's office and efforts to reform it. It has been said that many unjust sentences are being handed out, that the law is racist and that recent modifications of Measure 11, which I supported, only give judges discretion in sentencing if the prosecutor agrees. The facts are otherwise.

Measure 11, which provides mandatory sentences for certain felonies, covers serious violent crime. It was approved by 67 percent of the voters and went into effect in April 1995. Its purpose was to remove serious violent criminals from our streets.

It has been effective in doing just that. Readers should be aware that statewide rates for person crimes have gone from 177.3 crimes per 10,000 persons in 1994, to 175.1 in 1995, to 155.3 in 1996. The 1996 numbers are the lowest since 1984.

Since April 1995 there have been 2,822 possible Measure 11 charges presented to my office for review. That review is a multistep and professional process that in most cases includes the following: an examination of a probable-cause affidavit by a judge before the case is sent to our office, a review of the case by an experienced prosecutor in consultation with the victim and the police under written guidelines that expressly exclude race and sex as factors for consideration, and an examination under oath of witnesses by the seven ordinary citizens who sit on a grand jury.

The result of that process is that nearly half, 43 percent, of the cases are rejected. The remaining 1,597 were indicted under Measure 11.

The review process does not end there. These cases are all reviewed by groups of prosecutors with an average of more than 10 years' experience and one of my chief deputies. They are required to follow well established and written guidelines.

The intent is to openly identify cases where there might be doubt as to the defendant's guilt or information that would show the Measure 11 sentence would be too harsh. Some cases are completely dismissed and others are reduced as a result of this review.

Of the cases concluded by conviction, 49 percent have been convicted of the Measure 11 crime they were charged with; 27 percent have been convicted of another crime and given a lesser sentence; and 24 percent have had at least one Measure 11 count dismissed.

Each of these defendants has been afforded all the constitutional rights our system provides - including the right to a lawyer, a jury trial if they want one and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The writer of the "In my opinion" column is a case in point. Larry Harrell has a criminal record dating back to 1981. It includes two prior convictions for Assault 4, one conviction for attempting to elude a police officer and reckless driving, and a conviction for Robbery 3. He is awaiting sentencing for the two Robbery 3 charges and will receive a 35-month sentence - which he and his attorney have agreed to - of which, with good behavior, he can expect to serve 28 months.

He was facing a sentence of 90 months for Robbery I, but the charge was reduced, in part because of the review process and mitigating factors in his case. This was done without regard to his race; in fact, he is African-American.

This brings us to another false assertion: That Measure 11 is racist. The evidence is otherwise. First, the vast majority of Measure 11 prisoners are not African-American. Statewide, 93 percent of Measure 11 prisoners are not African-American. In Multnomah County, 73 percent are not. This difference is because 80 percent of the state's African-Americans live in Multnomah County.

In addition, African-Americans are sentenced to prison at a lower rate for Measure 11 crimes than for other felony offenses. Moreover, while it is true that African-Americans are sentenced for Measure 11 crimes at a higher rate than their percentage of the population, it is also true that African-Americans are the victims of Measure 11 crimes at a significantly higher rate than their percentage of the population.

Our justice system without question reflects the larger social problems of society, but it is not color-coded.

Although Measure 11 has done much good by bringing tough sentences for serious offenders, I have long felt there needed to be flexibility and judicial discretion for some of the crimes it covers. I supported efforts in the last two legislatures to do this. The result was Senate Bill 1049, which gives judges discretion in imposing the mandatory sentence on some Measure 11 crimes where there are mitigating circumstances and the defendant does not have a prior record of violent offenses.

While the new law may not be the final answer, the claim in a recently published letter that the district attorney has veto power over the judges' discretion is untrue.

In sum, your readers should insist that assertions regarding Measure 11 are backed up by specific and verifiable facts. Building on facts rather than falsehoods will better serve all in our community.

We need to continue to examine our laws and to work toward a more effective justice system that, while being fair and just for criminal defendants, accomplishes local government's No. 1 priority: the protection of the public.


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