University of Oregon Death Penalty Conference


On March 1 and 2 of 2002, the University of Oregon's Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics held a conference on the death penalty. The conference was organized by death penalty opponents and included several notable death penalty abolitionists from around the country as keynote speakers and in other roles. Until Crime Victims United and others vociferously objected, the conference had no representation from death penalty supporters. After CVU's persistent objections, the conference organizers included a few token death penalty supporters.

CVU feels that this alone represents an unacceptable promotion of a political agenda by a state institution using taxpayer money. To make matters worse, the conference was timed to support the "Life for a Life" ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in Oregon. This made is a clear violation of Oregon election law. Crime Victims United pursued this violation with the state election authorities.

The following is material and correspondence related to this matter.

February 27, 2002 press release from Crime Victims United


Press Release: February 27, 2002


The University of Oregon is using public money and public employees at its March 1 "The Law and Politics of the Death Penalty" Conference to promote an initiative repealing the death penalty according to documents it finally turned over to Crime Victims United yesterday after 2 months of stonewalling.

Steve Doell, President of Crime Victims United, stated, "The disclosed documents show the Conference was planned and organized in large part by criminal defense attorneys and was timed to provide maximum benefit to the current initiative to repeal the death penalty. They confirm our belief that the Conference is little more than a political rally for those who oppose the death penalty, organized by state employees, held at state facilities, and backed by government money. I am calling on the Attorney General to investigate whether Oregon's Mini Hatch Act, that prohibits such political activity, has been violated."

The documents that were finally provided to Doell yesterday reveal among other things:

The University's Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics - which grew out of a $500,000 challenge grant by the US Congress and $190,849 in contributions from the US Office of Education - is paying Charles Ogletree, an anti-death penalty activist and Harvard law professor, a $30,000 fee and $7,000 for expenses. Although Ogletree is doing other work for the Center it would appear that a substantial portion of the money is for his activities in connection with the Conference. Ogletree wrote on behalf of the Conference that, "Its timing could play out well for political measures and the abolition movement.";

Sister Helen Prejean, an anti-death activist of "Dead Man Walking" fame, will be paid $1,500 for personal services in connection with her appearance at the Conference. The Morse Center also apparently agreed to pay her for another appearance in Oregon to be coordinated with her plans to appear on behalf of the "Life For A Life" initiative to repeal the death penalty;

Margaret Hallock, Director of the Morse Center, wrote to Sister Prejean, "We hope [the conference] is well timed to assist you with efforts in a moratorium or abolition of the death penalty" ;

Kimberly J. O'Brien, Administrator of the Morse Center, in a April 25, 2001 memorandum, granted criminal defense attorneys a lead role in selecting Conference speakers and designing the Conference. She also granted them complete control over a legal education part of the Conference

Doell originally wrote to University officials several months ago calling on them to balance the Conference. Instead, they have continued to organize a Conference overwhelmingly composed of anti-death penalty activists and stonewalled Doell's efforts to obtain documents related to the Conference. Last week they even added another death penalty opponent, Illinois Governor George Ryan, as a keynote speaker and indicated there will be no opportunity to question him. This for a man who is so unpopular in his home state he is being forced to retire from elective office and is said to be the target of a grand jury investigation.

Copies of all correspondence between the University and Doell and his attorney, as well as copies of all the documents the University disclosed, are available.

Doell will be holding a press conference outside the doors of the Conference at the EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon, in Eugene on Friday, March 1, 2002 at 2pm.

March 25, 2002, letter from Crime Victims United President Steve Doell to Mr. John Lindback of the Oregon Elections Division.

Mr. John Lindback
Secretary of State Elections Division
141 State Capitol Building
Salem, Oregon 97310

Dear Mr. Lindback:

It has come to my attention that Margaret Hallock and other public employees associated with the University of Oregon and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics have violated ORS 260.432 (2) by their activities in connection with the recent "The Law and Politics of the Death Penalty" Conference. These violations began some time ago and concluded only with the end of the conference.

Although I suspected this was taking place, I discovered it only recently when, after months of delay the University of Oregon finally produced various public records my attorney had requested on my behalf. I have enclosed copies of my attorney's correspondence with the University and copies of some of the relevant public records produced.

It is clear that Ms. Hallock and some of her associates, while working as public employees, organized a conference and used funds that included public monies with the specific intent of promoting the "Life for a Life" initiative to repeal the death penalty in Oregon.

I trust that your office will exercise its responsibilities under ORS 260.345 to investigate this matter, levy fines and take corrective action. Furthermore, to prevent future political activity and misuse of public monies by Ms. Hallock or her associates while on the job this issue must be referred for prosecution if appropriate.


Steve Doell

May 8, 2002 letter from Elections Division official Norma J. Buckno to Margaret Hallock.

Margaret Hallock, Director
Wayne Morse Center for Law & Politics
220C Night Law Center
1221 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1221

Dear Ms. Hallock:

On March 28, 2002, this office notified you that a written complaint had been received by the Secretary of State, Elections Division, alleging possible violations of Oregon election law with which you may have been involved. Specifically, the complaint is regarding possible violations of ORS 260.432. A copy of the complaint is enclosed. The complainant Steve Doell, of Crime Victims United, alleges that public employee work time and public resources may have been used to organize and hold a conference with a purpose of supporting the "Life for a Life" initiative petition, which calls for repeal of the death penalty as a constitutional amendment. We note that the initiative petition in question was begun on January 31, 2001, and approved for circulation on June 18, 2001. Chief petitioners are Senator Mark O. Hatfield, William Connor, MD and Norma Paulus.

In order for us to determine if there have been any violations of Oregon election law, we would like for you to provide any written comments you may have regarding the allegations contained in the complaint letter and your answers to the following questions. Our inquiry into this matter does not mean that we have determined that you or others have violated provisions of Oregon election law in this situation. A final determination letter will be sent to you as soon as possible after reviewing responses to our inquiry and available information.

1) Are you a public employee? Please explain.

2) What was the purpose of the conference in question? Who was the audience, etc. Please explain in detail.

3) At any time during the conference, were there any statements made or other promotion of the initiative petition described above, or reference to it as to the gathering of signatures? Please explain. If so, was any public employee work time used to facilitate the event at which this occurred?

4) Were any public funds used in regard to this conference? Please explain in detail and if so, who approved use of those public funds?

5) How was the subject of the conference decided upon? Please explain in detail.

6) What relationship did the conference have with the initiative petition, "Life for a Life," sponsored by Senator Mark O. Hatfield, William Connor MD and Norma Paulus.

7) Please explain what is meant on the page numbered 2, from the April 3, 2000 minutes of a planning committee, item number 5, "Prejean visit, Sister Helen Prejean is scheduled to visit Oregon in the fall through the auspices of the anti-death organization "Life for Life Project" in support of the ballot measure to amend the Oregon Constitution to abolish the death penalty and make a mandatory life-with-no-parole sentence to take its place." It further states, "The Committee discussed the propriety of co-sponsoring the visit. Hallock said that the Chair can sponsor educational activities on policy issues and the Chair could invite Sister Helen as a Morse Chair occupant for a one-day event during her visit to Oregon."

8) On the next copied page, numbered 2, item number 2, it states, "An update on current plans for the death penalty conference was distributed. DeFazio said that it is likely there will be another statewide anti-death penalty measure on the ballot. He will think about colleagues who are leaders on the issues, as well as his own possible involvement." It is not clear what document this page is from; if you can identify it, please do so. Do you know if the mentioned possible persons are supportive of repeal of the death penalty issue?

9) Please refer to the copy of a May 7, 2001, letter you sent to Senator Mark Hatfield about his agreement to be part of your conference on the death penalty on March 1 and 2, 2002, at the University of Oregon. It states, "We hop that the timing fits well with your efforts for a moratorium of the death penalty." Did you write this letter on your work time? Please explain what you meant by this, as it seems to speak to the initiative effort as his "efforts for a moratorium of the death penalty," which had begun on January 31, 2001.

10) Please refer to the copy of a May 7, 2001, letter you sent to Sister Helen Prejean about her agreement to be part of your conference on the death penalty on March 1 and 2, 2002, at the University of Oregon. It states, "The conference is shaping up to be a very important event, and we hope that it is well timed to assist you with your efforts in a moratorium or abolition of the death penalty." Did you write this letter on your work time? Please explain what you meant by this, as it seems to speak to the initiative effort, which had begun on January 31, 2001.

11) In a May 10, 2001, letter from Mr. Charles Ogletree, Jr. to Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, he states, "This will be the most thought-provoking session on the death penalty in some time. Its timing could play out well for political measures on capital punishment and the abolition movement." We recognize that this is a letter of correspondence outside the University of Oregon, and you are only a recipient of a copy. In any case, please provide any thoughts you may have on this statement.

12) In Mr. John Bennett's letter to you dated November 26, 2001, he states, "All keynote speakers appear to be anti-death penalty activists, including a chief petitioner of the initiative campaign. The additional speakers cited are similarly disposed and active." Mr. Bennett further states, "While we realize you have made some efforts in recent weeks to include death penalty proponents in the conference, these efforts do not appear to us sufficient to achieve even a rough balance in the conference generally, and in its speakers or its panels specifically." Was there a balance of views represented at the conference. Please explain?

Please include any additional written comments you may have, and submit your written response to this office by May 24, 2002. You may mail your response, or fax it to our fax number, (503) 373-7414. As stated above, this office will issue a determination as soon as possible. For reference, please find enclosed a copy of an election law reminder memorandum about ORS 260-432 that this office distributed this year. Thank you for your cooperation.


Norma J. Buckno
Compliance Specialist