Steve Doell Speaks at POMC Day of Remembrance
CRIME VICTIMS UNITED
CVU President Steve Doell gave the following speech at the Portland Parents of Murdered Children commemoration of the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.
The event took place on September 23rd, 2022, in the POMC Garden at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City.
My name is Steve Doell and I am the parent of a murdered child.
I have been a member of Parents of Murdered Children and Other Survivors of Homicide for 30 years.
Let me take a moment and address the last half of the POMC name - “other Survivors of Homicide Victims.”
Losing a child to murder is a parent's worst nightmare. Included in POMC and here today are not just parents of murdered children but survivors of murdered mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, best friends, neighbors and work colleagues; all together to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.
I’m sorry for your losses but I’m glad you are here today to assemble for this remembrance at the beautiful POMC memorial.
It's been 30 years since the murder of my 12 year-old daughter Lisa. As we do at meetings I would like to share with you what happened to Lisa and also fill you in on the trajectory of criminal justice in Oregon.
On October 21, 1992, Lisa - a happy, healthy, talented, loving and kind 12 year-old child who just got off the school bus - was walking home when a 16 year-old stranger with a record brutally murdered her.
He was traveling on North Shore Road, which has a 20 MPH speed limit, between 40 and 45 MPH when he slammed into her. Lisa was walking on the berm of the road as we taught her. His intent was evidenced by the fact that he left tire marks through people's lawns and flower beds before and after he ran her over. There were no skid marks.
The impact of his car on her body dislocated her shoulder, cracked her skull open from ear-to-ear, and yanked her out of her shoes.
Due to one holdout juror who ignored the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, he was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder on a non-unanimous 11-1 jury verdict.
Was he guilty of murder? Let’s examine some facts.
When he went to the home of his peer counselors from school right after he murdered Lisa he told them he carried out one of his fantasies - to see what it felt like to kill someone.
When he called his home to tell his parents he was going to be out for the evening the police were at his home. Why? Because Lisa’s leg tore the front license plate off the car and left it as his calling card on the street.
The police said they wanted to talk to him. They said you’re a young man who’s had a terrible accident. His reply? “It wasn’t an accident, I did it on purpose.”
When he was finally apprehended later that evening, about four hours after he murdered Lisa he again made the statement: “It wasn’t an accident, I did it on purpose.”
He was brought in to the Lake Oswego Police Department for questioning and was shown a list of scenarios on a whiteboard of what possibly occurred around 3:50 pm. on October 21, 1992:
He said, I think you know which one it is. He stated it was intentional and laughed.
He was not on alcohol or drugs at the time he murdered her.
He was convicted of manslaughter by an 11-1 jury vote and served 28 months in a juvenile facility.
In the 30 years since Lisa's murder, I have become more immersed in the crime issue in Oregon than I ever could have imagined, and I have witnessed and participated in a non-stop struggle to influence Oregon's criminal justice system. An incident from last year will give you a sense of that struggle.
In 2022, members of the legislature filed a bill, Senate Bill 1511, that would have vacated the manslaughter conviction of the person who murdered Lisa because the jury vote was not unanimous.
Since 1934, Oregon law allowed a non-unanimous jury to convict or acquit a person accused of a felony crime other than murder. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a unanimous jury was required for a conviction but did not make the ruling retroactive. Consequently, conviction in Oregon now requires a unanimous jury but a jury can still acquit on a non-unanimous vote.
The bill proposed to make the unanimous jury requirement retroactive. It was promoted by advocates for criminals, who have tirelessly worked to undermine accountability for crimes. The bill, had it passed, would have vacated the sentences of an estimated 12,000 criminals including felons convicted of child molestation, aggravated assault, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, manslaughter and attempted murder.
Criminals commit crimes. These are decisions, not mistakes as many misguided activists and elected officials would have us think. The crime victims don’t get a choice in the criminal’s decision making process. They have no choice but to become part of the criminal’s decision and acts.
For the past decade many in the Oregon Legislature have treated criminals as crime victims and crime victims as collateral damage in the system and often treated victims like they don’t even exist.
It’s time for this to stop.
In 2022, Senate Bill 1511 was defeated through the concerted efforts of crime victims, district attorneys, and elected officials with a sense of decency, but the people behind it are still pressing to vacate at least 12,000 sentences through the courts.
I don’t profess to know what any of you have been through. We all handle our grief differently.
What I do know is that we all experienced a crime committed against our loved ones that had the same result: their death, taking away a most important person in our life in the commission of the act of murder.
My grief and outrage led me to join Crime Victims United after Lisa’s murder. CVU is the longest-standing public safety and crime victims' advocacy organization in Oregon. In the 1980s, crime victims were treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system, very lenient sentencing had undermined respect for law, and violent crime had been soaring for decades. Sex criminals often served little or no time in prison and violent criminals received short sentences. Even murderers routinely served fewer than 10 years in prison.
CVU led the long and eventually successful fights for constitutional crime victims' rights and to restore the credibility of the criminal justice system through sentencing that reflected the values of the people of Oregon. Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike overwhelmingly voted 10 times over 22 years for these policies.
In recent years, the tremendous progress that CVU fought for has been squandered in pursuit of slickly-marketed but utopian, deceitful and destructive policies. The result is most dramatically seen in Portland where foolish policies have undermined respect for the law and resulted in a massive and unprecedented increase in murders.
September 22nd was the Autumn Equinox – a good reminder that life is cyclical. I want you to have a grasp of the significance of the battle that we crime victims have been engaged in.
We have to stay alert to change. In the mid-1990s, we had tremendous success with the passage of Measure 11 and Constitutional rights for crime victims. Not surprisingly, others looked at our success and plotted how to steal it.
There used to be a prisoner rights group called Western Prison Project. They changed their name to Partnership for Safety and Justice. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Who isn’t in favor of safety and justice?
The media quickly took a shine to them and frequently quoted representatives from Partnership for Safety and Justice. The group sounded so neutral. Again, who doesn’t like safety and justice?
Of course, they weren’t neutral, they are fanatically devoted to emptying the prisons. Partnership for Safety and Justice began as a prisoner rights group, and that’s where their loyalties remained. They set about “reforming the criminal justice system” – a phrase that is deliberately vague. It could be argued that Measure 11 reformed the criminal justice system – reforms that the voters approved.
But the reforms sought by our opponents targeted Measure 11. They decided to dismantle it by gradually turning criminal offenders into victims.
They were so successful that Jennifer Williamson, who had been an attorney for the old Western Prison Project, was elected to the legislature and even became House Majority Leader.
Williamson was one of the most active legislators on criminal justice reform and successfully led the push for Senate Bill 1008, which removed violent juveniles – even juveniles rapists and murderers – from Measure 11.
Now it’s possible for juvenile murderers to escape the public scrutiny of adult court proceedings. They can hide in juvenile court, away from public view, serve a minimum sentence and reach adulthood with a clean record.
We have now seen the results of all this work to treat criminal offenders like victims. Record homicide rates in Portland. Assaults, robberies, carjackings are almost a daily occurrence. We have drug camps that look like garage sales filled with stolen property.
Parents of murdered children suffer a profound grief. But something also happens when folks going about their daily lives discover that someone has broken into their home or stolen their car or set up a drug camp outside their workplace. People come to realize how fragile their personal safety is. Suddenly murder isn’t something that only happens to other people. It could happen to someone you love.
We are on the cusp of a new cycle. Crime victims are once again being heard on the political stage. We need to seize this moment. We need to challenge politicians regarding their stands on criminal justice, law enforcement, sentencing and crime victims rights.
You have an opportunity to do that today. If you look around closely at lunch you’ll see a candidate for Governor among you. Her name is Betsy Johnson. Walk up, introduce yourself, and question her about her positions on criminal justice.
We must act like other special interest groups in our country and our state. We are not only crime victims we are crime fighters, and that’s something to be proud of.
On this National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, let us honor our loved ones and, in their memory, commit to making a safer Oregon for everyone.
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