With the rapidly approaching departure of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, conjecture is flying about what he might do with the 33 men and one woman on Oregon's death row. Kitzhaber resigned over corruption allegation involving his girlfriend, according to The Oregonian.
Before he leaves office on February 18, 2015, Kitzhaber has the power to empty death row -- in other words, commute every inmate's capital sentence to life in prison. Some of those inmates could be eligible for parole after 30 years.
"And there would be no appeal," said Benjamin Kim, an Oregon City attorney who represents aggravated murder defendants.
It's not unprecedented for an outgoing governor to take that bold step.
In 2003, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan made international headlines when he commuted the sentences of more than 150 death row inmates just before leaving office.
Just a few weeks ago, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley granted clemency to the last four inmates on death row one day before his political term was up. O'Malley had previously succeeded in pushing lawmakers to abolish Maryland's death penalty, so no new inmates were being added to death row.
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