Oregon Supreme Court Rulings in Rodriguez and Buck Cases

CRIME VICTIMS UNITED


September 24, 2009

Today the Oregon Supreme Court overturned Measure 11 sentences in the Rodriguez and Buck cases. Both of these cases involved sexual contact between an adult and a 13-year-old and resulted in Sex Abuse I convictions.

With some age-related exceptions, Measure 11 requires a 6 year and 3 month minimum mandatory sentence for Sex Abuse I. In both cases, the trial judge refused to impose the minimum mandatory sentence. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judges erred and reinstated the Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentences. (That ruling also shows that Ms. Rodriguez' inappropriate behavior was more extensive than the media is reporting.)

Today the Oregon Supreme Court ruled on a 4-3 vote that the sentences were "so disproportionate to the offense committed that it shocks the moral sense of reasonable people." On this grounds, the court ruled that the sentences in these cases were unconsitutional and overturned them.

Crime Victims United's Position

Crime Victims United agrees with the Oregon Supreme Court that 6 years 3 months is a disproportionate sentence for the actions for which the defendants were convicted in these cases.

Since 1997 we have gone to the Oregon Legislature many times with proposals that would have given judges discretion in cases like this. HB 3341 was our most recent attempt in the 2009 legislative session. Each time the legislature rejected our proposals and each time Measure 11 opponents have opposed our attempt to give judges discretion in this type of case.

Additional Observations

1. The decisions in the Rodriguez and Buck cases were 4 to 3 in favor of the defendants. However, the Oregon Supreme Court was unanimous (7 to 0) that Measure 11 is constitutional.

2. Thousands and thousands of Measure 11 sentences have been handed out since 1995. Two have been overturned on constitutional grounds. Far more non-Measure 11 sentences have been overturned.

3. Before Measure 11 it was common for sentences to be "so disproportionate to the offense committed that it shocks the moral sense of reasonable people." Examples were probation for rape, sexual assault and child molestation and 8 years in prison for murder. While these lenient sentences shocked the moral sense of regular Oregonians, none were overturned by the courts.

4. Crime Victims United supported modifications to Measure 11 that gave judges discretion in sentencing for all second-degree Measure 11 crimes when certain findings are made. We have been successful in making those modifications through the legislature. Because of these changes, large numbers of adult and juvenile defendants in second-degree Measure 11 cases have received sentences below the Measure 11 mandatory minimum - as low as probation in many cases. Measure 11 opponents have refused to acknowledge these changes.

5. Crime Victims United has supported giving judges discretion in non-forcible second-degree sex offenses and non-forcible first-degree sex abuse since 1997. We have filed bills in five legislative sessions proposing these statutory changes. The latest was HB 3341 in the 2009 session.

6. Crime Victims United believes that certain portions of Measure 11, as it was originally passed, needed reform and we took the lead in making those changes. Non-forcible second-degree sex offenses and non-forcible first-degree sex abuse are the remaining portions of Measure 11 that require reform in our opinion. Opponents of Measure 11 have consistently opposed us on this issue.

7. The Oregon Supreme Court's decision makes it imperative that the legislature take action in the next session to address sentencing issues in non-forcible second-degree sex offenses and non-forcible first-degree sex abuse.

8. Because of Measure 11, approximately 4,500 violent criminals and serious sex offenders are in prison rather than on our streets. (Source: Oregon Prison Population Forecast)

9. Since 1995 when Measure 11 took effect, Oregon's violent crime rate is down nearly 50 percent, leading all states in this category. Measure 11 opponents claim that this is a coincidence.

10. Opponents of Measure 11 do not want reform. They want Measure 11 repealed because they want to keep criminals, even violent criminals and serious sex offenders, out of prison and in our communities.

Adult Sentencing for Second-Degree Measure 11 Crimes and First-Degree Sex Abuse - 2007

Large numbers of adult criminals convicted of second-degree Measure 11 offenses in 2007 received sentences below the mandatory minimum.

These exceptions are presumed to be through Senate Bill 1049 and House Bill 2379, bills supported by Crime Victims United.

Crime

Percent Sentenced Under Mandatory Minimum

Assault II

59.8

Kidnapping II

61.2

Manslaughter II

0

Rape II

14.2

Robbery II

47.1

Sex Penetration II

0

Sex Abuse I

3.9

Sodomy II

16.6

All

40.3

Source: Oregon Criminal Justice Commission

Juvenile Sentencing for Second-Degree Measure 11 Crimes

The Criminal Justice Commission also investigated the percentage of juveniles convicted of second-degree Measure 11 crimes who received sentences below the mandatory minimum:

Year

Percent M11 Sentence

Percent Sentenced Under Mandatory Minimum

2004

41.3

58.6

2005

39.6

60.3

2006

37.0

62.9

2007

44.2

55.7

2008

51.3

48.6

Total

43.3

56.6

Of those juveniles who received sentences below the mandatory minimum, 41.5 percent received probation.

Source: Oregon Criminal Justice Commission


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