Thursday, December 29, 2005

Oregon's Death Penalty

OpEd in The Oregonian, Thursday, December 29, 2005

Many people have read columnist Steve Duin's five-part saga of the murder of Rod and Lois Houser and the thus-far 17-year voyage of their killer, Randy Guzek, through the legal system.

The Oregonian's editorial board expressed its own frustration over the irony that Guzek survives and is likely to for at least another decade or two. I have strong feelings on the case, having twice argued the death penalty for Guzek to Deschutes County jurors and want to respond to some of the letters and one commentary by William Long ("Facing the failings of our death penalty law," Dec. 16) on the case.

Long argues that life without parole should replace the death penalty as the ultimate sanction. But what would happen if we substituted "life" for "death"? If the past is any indication, we should expect more innocents to die. People will die at the hands of killers serving "life" whether they did their time and were released (Richard Marquette of Salem) or escaped (Carl Cletus Bowles of Eugene). I have no doubt that without the specter of death for some of the worst killers (like Edward Morris, who slaughtered his family in rural Tillamook County, and child-killer Ward Weaver) they would never have agreed to forgo a trial in return for a sentence of life without parole.

The resources and time invested in aggravated murder cases in which death was not a possibility is almost as great as capital cases. Oregon provides a very high level of defense for those indigents accused of murder, as it should. But to claim, as one letter writer did, that "if Guzek were a rich celebrity [he] would be a free man" is ridiculous. Guzek's guilt has never been questioned since a jury convicted him in 1988. He may not be a celebrity, but he has had and continues to receive the defense of a very rich man.

Another series of letters, some by sincerely dedicated foes of Oregon's death penalty, claim that capital punishment is neither a deterrent nor justice. Honest people can differ on the morality of the state-sanctioned taking of a killer's life, but recent studies from Emory University, the University of Colorado and several other academic institutions show that for every death penalty that is carried out, approximately 17 murders are deterred.

The research is so compelling that it has led progressive legal scholar Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago to publish a provocative paper titled "Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs." Sunstein argues that if we know with certainty that using capital punishment saves roughly 18 lives by preventing that many murders for each execution, how can we justify not employing the death penalty? The studies he relies on are conducted mostly by nonideological economists, one of whom even made a point of expressing his own dislike for capital punishment, believing it was racist.

No one has been released from Oregon's Death Row because anyone argued he was factually innocent. The racial composition of Oregon's Death Row mirrors the overwhelmingly white population of the state, while several of the victims of those on Death Row were people of color.

Oregon's prosecutors continue to be appropriately sparing in the number of times they seek the death penalty. Oregon juries are even more discriminating in when they impose it. It seems the one thing we can all agree on is that waiting 20 to 30 years for a killer to be punished is absurd.


  1. Josh: excited to see you blogging and I hope that you'll keep it up. I'm looking forward to reading your insights into the "justice sytem, politics and the media". This kind of accessibility is one of the great things both about weblogs and also about living in a small town like Astoria!

  2. Readers should know that if this poster is indeed "Ti Eastman" he was "imvolved" in the brutal murder of Dorene Raterman. Anthony Mullins, a pal of Eastman, was sentenced to life and died in prison a few years ago. Eastman was convicted of felony Hindering Prosecution for his role in Raterman's murder. This case pre-dates my arrival in Clatsop County but many people have told me they though both Eastman and Mullins got off far too lightly for their crimes.

  3. Yes this is indeed the poster ti Eastman.First of all I never thought I would ever be involved in some ones death not even a 15 year was hard to see what Dorene Ratermans family was going thought as well as the eastman family.As for Mr Marquis say that I was a pal of mr Mullins .How can that be when I only new him for two weeks.That doe not make one pals.!!!!.Lts not for get that there was a 15 old that was taken from her family and that Mr Mullins did this on his own .Yes I did take him home and yes I did not say any thing for a while till the cops came to talk to me.As for those that say that I got off lightly I say to them no.I live with this ever day and know that there was a family that lost a loved one like I lost my Dad in 2004 by the hands of some one that I did not know that well. ti eastman

  4. I have been aware of various renditions of Ti Eastman's involvment with the murder of Dorene Raterman back in 1988. The hindering prosecution charge he recieved can never equal his true involvement in that murder. He says he lives with her death on his mind everyday, that is good as well as a sure indication that guilt and shame will not release him because of his further involvement with her murder.Believe me, I can substantiate what I am saying with several factual accounts of Mr. Eastman's knowledge and involvement in her death. For example, nearly two weeks after she came up missing and thousands of people were involved in her search at that time, Ti Eastman knew all along what had happened to her and never spoke up. Yes, we know that much many may say, but very few know that on one particular mid-morning the four older brother's of Dorene were sitting in the Astoria Mc Donald's having some breakfast and discussing the search plan for that day when a young man, wearing a Clatsop County Search and Rescue coat approached their table, asked to sit down and began discussing the searches as one who had been involved in doing so and yes, that young man was Ti Eastman. Ti sat at the table with her four older brothers, hid behind that jacket that spoke, "trust me cause I'm on your side, I'm part of search and Rescue," and looked one brother in the eye for over twenty minutes of discusion all the while knowing what happened and where. It was learned later that during this discussion with her brothers Ti actually hinted at the brushy area where the murder took place. It was four days later that Ti Eastman was arrested and everything began to reveal what happened to Dorene Raterman. In my opinion, there isn't any learning disorder (which many claim he has) that can dismiss the cold, calculating, almost taunting actions and words of Ti Eastman that morning. I know what the truth is and I know what I'm saying in regards to that morning. Tony Mullins may have been the actual hands of her murder, but in many ways, Ti Eastman is far more dangerous. This is what I know and believe, even after 21 years because I am one of the four brothers and the one he looked in the eye for over twenty minutes.

  5. It just irrates me to no end that Ti Eastman is not rotting in prison. I worry about how many other crimes he has been involved with and gotten away with scott free. No amount of time can ever bring Dorene back to her family and it sends chills down my spine that I was on Facebook and one of the people I know actually has Ti Eastman as a friend, then I actually had to google his name just to see if it was the same Ti Eastman involved in Dorenes murder & I couldn't believe it is. He continues to live his life and be free to commit murder. Dorene should be the one with a facebook and a life, but they took that. My heart goes out to Dorenes Family, even though I know that wont take away any of the pain. I have a daughter and a granddaughter and I worry about them constantly because of criminals like Ti Eastman that are running the streets. TI EASTMAN NEEDS TO ROT IN PRISON!!!! I would leave my name but I fear that something could happen to one of my family members for expressing my view. Sincerely a Clatsop County Resident, that feels criminals in Clatsop County GET OFF WAY TO EASY!!

  6. Dorene will never be forgotten. I was a young child when Dorene went missing. I was not given many details of the case as my mother was protecting us from the truth. I was at that time, the oldest of one of her brothers step children. As I am older now and researching the details of the case, I am shocked at how this all went down. My mother was right to keep the details from her children. I knew that it was serious enough because we had to move suddenly from several states away and visitation with my mother, step father and half sister was cut short that summer. I did not know Dorene well as I was young, but I do remember her and always looked forward to seeing her. I am not as in touch with the Raterman family as I once was, but I want all of you to know that I am here. You can contact me through your brother's social media page if you like. Take care all.


  7. I knew Dorene since the 7th grade. I only knew her for 3 years. She would have graduated with us in 1991 at Seaside High School in Seaside, Oregon. She would have graduated with honors because she was very smart. She was a very nice person and liked by all her classmates. May 1998: I sat next to Dorene in computer class. I remember about 2 to 3 weeks before school was out we shared some jolly rancher candy in computer class. Looking back it doesn't seem like much but it's the one memory I have of Dorene and it is how I remember her. I was a quiet person and I remember Dorene was a quiet person too even though she was very active around her friends. I was not a close friend of Dorene, just her classmate and I enjoyed the time I knew her. I hope her memory lives on. I will always remember Dorene as the nice person who sat next to me in computer class and shared some candy. I do not think God would ever let me come across the monster who is still alive today because then my kids would have to come visit me in jail for the rest of my life.