Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oregon Man Sentenced to Death for the Fourth Time

A jury in Bend, Oregon deliberated for less than six hours this past week before deciding to impose the death penalty, for the fourth time, on a man convicted of two murders in 1987.

Randy Lee Guzek was 18 when he and two accomplices robbed a couple from Terrebonne in Central Oregon. Guzek, under the influence of methamphetamine, ordered one of his accomplices to kill one victim while he chased down and shot the other victim.

The Associated Press reported the tortured history of this case which involved four trials.

Guzek's 1988 murder conviction has never been reversed, but his death sentence spawned a legal drama that has lasted 22 years and reportedly cost the state more than $2 million. The death penalty phase was tried again in 1991, 1997 and the latest trial last week. All resulted in the same verdict--death.

At the beginning of the latest trial, Guzek waived an option that would have given him the chance for life in prison with no opportunity for parole. Jurors were then left with two options: a death sentence or life in prison with possibility of parole when Guzek is 78.

During the three-week trial, jurors were repeatedly told of Guzek's horrific upbringing at the hands of an abusive father. Despite that, not one of the 12 jurors was moved to keep Guzek off death row.

Josh Marquis, former president of the National District Attorneys Association, was the prosecutor in Guzek's 1991 sentencing trial. He later moved from Bend to Oregon's north coast, but returned for the 1997 trial and this one as a special prosecutor to fulfill a promise to the victims' family.

My Take

The death penalty is the most closely scrutinized criminal sanction in America. The U.S. Supreme Court suggested that those accused of first degree murder are being provided "super due process." This case illustrates the thorough review afforded those who are sentenced to death.

The families of murder victims have to deal with pain and agony every time an accused is granted a new trial. In this case, the family of the victims have had this case etched in there psyche for 23 years.

This case is far from over. There will be another round of direct appeals. If those are disposed of in favor of the state, the federal appeals will begin. The requests for stay and the challenges to the method of death will also contribute to delay. Guzek will sit on death row at least another 10 years.

Guzek's death penalty conviction may result in his dying in prison. Oregon has only executed two killers since reimposing the death penalty in 1978. Both men, who were executed more than a decade ago, voluntarily waived their appeals. With Guzek's sentence there are now 34 men and no women on Oregon's death row.

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