Saturday, November 17, 2018

Trust Oregonians with non-unanimous juries

"We trust Oregonians with non-unanimous juries"
Guest column by Joshua Marquis, William B. Porter and Steve Leriche
Saturday, November 17, 2018

2020 UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a similar, but unconnected law in Louisiana.
As expected juries must now vote unanimously to convict, but defense attorneys, who complained that Oregon was "different" now want Oregon to be the only place in America where you must be convicted by a jury of 12, but you can be set free by just 10. Hopefully the state courts will rule the right way.

Oregon has a long history of reform and experimenting with new ideas. Whether it was requiring deposits on soft drink bottles or decriminalizing marijuana, both are changes in the law that just 40 years ago were considered revolutionary.

But in a misleading op-ed, John Hummel, who has spent his career defending criminals and is about to begin a second term as the Deschutes County District Attorney, argued that when Oregon voters overwhelmingly voted in 1934 to allow 10-to-2 jury votes on verdicts in all felony cases (except murder) that was because of the influence of the Ku Klux Klan. And yet at the exact time when this racist, xenophobic movement was supposedly happening, Oregonians voted in the state’s first independent, Jewish governor.

Unanimous juries can empower singular racist jurors, and allow them to prevent an acquittal just as much as non-unanimous juries can minimize the impact of a few minorities who might prevent an acquittal. Why is the assumption that minorities will only vote to acquit and not convict? In our experience, minority jurors are just as fair to prosecutors as all other jurors. Oregon has a very small African-American population, for example, less than 2 percent statewide versus 13 percent nationally.

The only thing non-unanimous juries do is reduce hung juries. And the only thing unanimous juries do is increase hung juries. Each is true regardless of race. So the only question is do we want more hung juries or not?

The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association has been trying to attack our current non-unanimous jury system for the past 20 years. Until the last couple of years, that organization never publicly claimed it was racist. Now they are doing it as a tactic and it should only be recognized as such.

Hummel has been the Deschutes County DA for four years. His prosecutors have been convicting criminals in jury trials under our current law all that time. If he thinks our current law is racist, has he ordered his prosecutors to insist upon unanimous jury trials in all cases? Is he now saying all those convictions that were not unanimous were done in a racist manner? Is he moving to reverse them? Is he calling out his own prosecutors as racist? If not, it is the height of hypocrisy for him to get on his high horse now.

To claim that Oregon was in the grip of the KKK at that point in our state’s history is laughably ignorant or deliberately deceptive. The law passed by voters granted defendants the exclusive right to decide that a judge -- not a jury -- decide whether the prosecution had proven their guilt. To this day, most states require both sides to “waive jury,” but in 1934 Oregon voters gave criminal defendants that exclusive right. They also required that an overwhelming majority of jurors agree as to guilt or innocence. Except in murder cases, where an accused killer must convince just 10 jurors that the evidence isn’t strong enough and he walks.

To compare Oregon with Louisiana, which allowed murder convictions and life sentences on a 10-to-2 vote, is historically inaccurate. Louisiana passed its law as part of its rejection of reconstruction in 1880, and resulted in nationally high conviction rates for black defendants. Oregon passed its law half a century later in the context of reforms that may seem modest today, like separating adult and juvenile prisoners.

As prosecutors who have argued hundreds of jury trials -- and lost our share -- we trust Oregon jurors to listen to the evidence and render a just verdict. Clearly others don’t have the same confidence in their fellow Oregonians.

Joshua Marquis is the Clatstop County District Attorney; William B. Porter is the Tillamook County District Attorney and Steve Leriche is the Jefferson County District Attorney.

Read the column and comments on

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hammond fisherman convicted

The wheel of Justice is always turning. Sometimes it turns slowly.

"Well-known Hammond fisherman convicted of sex abuse," Jack Heffernan for The Daily Astorian, November 13, 2018.

Dennis Sturgell
>>>A well-known Hammond fisherman was found guilty Tuesday of sex abuse and bribery charges stemming from a day of drinking and drug use with a young woman in 2015.
Dennis Lee Sturgell, 66, was convicted of four counts of first-degree sodomy, two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration and one count of second-degree sex abuse after jurors found that the woman did not or was unable to give consent.  . .  .
Dept DA Dawn Buzzard
Daniel Wendel, an attorney with the Oregon Department of Justice, and Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard prosecuted Sturgell. Wendel was the lead prosecutor due to a number of direct or indirect relationships local police have with the victim.
“The DA’s office is very proud of the fine work of Senior Deputy DA Dawn Buzzard and Assistant Attorney General Dan Wendel and the hard work of all the jurors,” District Attorney Josh Marquis said in a statement. “Nobody is above the law.” <<<

Saturday, November 10, 2018


From 1995, at KMUN 91.9fm. I'm still there, first and third Mondays, 6:00-8:00pm, and am honored to have been recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the governing body, the Tillicum Foundation.

Friday, October 5, 2018

New jail a necessity

"Jail is a necessity, not a luxury"
Guest column for the Daily Astorian
October 5, 2018

[UPDATE November 7, 2018: The jail bond passed with 55% voter approval.]

In many ways jails are orphans. Most of its “users,” or those directly affected by them, are confined to the victims of more serious crime, the officers who arrest those accused, and the people accused of crimes.

On the November ballot coming soon to your mailbox is Clatsop County Measure 4-195, which would authorize bonds to remodel the mothballed Oregon Youth Authority detention facility in Warrenton into a much-needed county jail.

The cost to families with a house assessed at roughly $200,000 would be about $43 a year, a fraction of what is being asked for by local school districts and other local districts. The difference, of course, who does a jail actually serve?

As your elected district attorney for the last quarter century, I can say without hesitation, a jail is there to protect you, your family and your neighbors. Oregon has one of the lower incarceration rates in the nation and criminals need to really outdo themselves to actually get locked up. Even in more serious felony crimes, only 30 percent of convicted felons go to prison. That means 70 percent of convicted felons stay in the community, may do some local jail time and hopefully learn stealing, selling drugs, or driving under the influence are not good ways to live.

But even if you or your family don’t “use” the jail, it is as necessary to a safe and livable community as a hospital. You probably don’t want to go there, either, but you sure want it there if needed.

Some might say that as a career prosecutor, of course I advocate for a jail. However this winter, after 40 years in law enforcement, 38 years as a lawyer, and 25 years as your DA, I will become a private citizen, who hopefully has no more personal need for the jail as most of you.

There are many reasons this bond needs to pass. This is the third try in 15 years. It is a likely one-time use of an existing state facility that might otherwise cost taxpayers twice as much. But most importantly it is because for the entire justice system to work, from police to probation, prosecutors to judges, drug treatment to restraining orders, there has to be an empty jail bed available if a judge determines it is appropriate.

Most people arrested, even for their third drunk driving offense, do not await trial in jail. At a cap of 60, the jail is one-third its needed capacity and dangerous felons are released every week. A few years ago one of those men murdered two young women just a few weeks later in Portland. That should never happen.

Some people have claimed that the sheriff’s political views should be punished by rejecting a desperately needed public building. That is spiteful and short-sighted. If I had a dollar for every time a crime victim or family member tearfully asked me why the abuser of someone’s spouse or child was walking free, I’d be a rich man. Immigration cases have not been held in the county jail for at least a decade. It’s far too full of people charged with violent felonies who are citizens.

There are a limited number of times the county is willing to go to the voters for a need like this, which many think will never impact them. Women will be abused if their abusers are not held in jail, children will be beaten or worse. This is not a scare tactic. This is actual experience, in this county.

Measure 4-195 is a modest proposal, using the Oregon Youth Authority facility the state abandoned. I doubt it will be usable in the same way in four to five years.

Many people claim the jail does not affect them because 1) their family or friends aren’t locked up, 2) they haven’t been the victim of a serious crime, or 3) if we don’t build a jail crime will magically decrease. That’s called “magical thinking” for a reason.

Do not be misled by emotion or a lack of empathy for the victims of crime, who tend to be women, children, and the poor, far more than people like me.

Please join me in voting “yes” on Measure 4-195.

Joshua Marquis is Clatsop County’s district attorney.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Op-Ed printed on 7/29/18 in the BEND BULLETIN about House Democratic leader Jennifer Williamson's  hostility to public safety 

In its editorial on July 22, The Bulletin’s editorial board was entirely correct to highlight the current epidemic of car theft in the Bend-Redmond area. It is even worse in other parts of the state, such as Portland, where car theft has increased by more than 50 percent. And the board is also entirely correct to place the blame for this at the feet of our Court of Appeals for the 2014 and 2015 decisions that made it extremely difficult to legally prove car theft, “to the point of absurdity” as they put it.
In 2008, the last time property crime was skyrocketing, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 57, which included the felony crime of auto theft.
It carries the possibility of a prison sentence if the criminal is a repeat offender. Common sense told the voters (and they were right) that incarceration reduces crime because while in prison an active property criminal cannot victimize the public.
[Oregon House] Majority Leader [Jennifer] Williamson is the second most powerful politician in the House of Representatives and an avowed “anti-incarceration” zealot. She has opposed the ballot measure which targeted career felony property offenders (Measure 57) and has made repeated attempts to take serious felony property crimes out of Measure 57.
In the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions Oregon district attorneys attempted to fix the law. It was Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson who led the effort to remove auto theft from Measure 57 by reducing it to a misdemeanor, thereby stopping the legislation from passing. During the past two years, hundreds, if not thousands, of victims have suffered needlessly while car theft rates have skyrocketed. Any suggestion that Majority Leader Williamson has not been the biggest roadblock to fixing the law is simply not accurate.
Despite all these difficulties, we stand ready and eager to work with legislative leadership to restore crimes, such as auto theft, under Measure 57 and honor the will of Oregon voters.
— John Foote is the district attorney for Clackamas County. Josh Marquis is the district attorney for Clatsop County.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Steve Duin: Josh Marquis, unleashed

By Steve Duin
For The Oregonian/OregonLive
Updated Jun 8; posted June 8

Photo: Steve Duin
Since Oregon voters enthusiastically restored the death penalty in 1984, no one has brought more urgency and clarity to the debate over capital crime and punishment than Josh Marquis, Clatsop County's district attorney.

Few appreciate that advocacy more than Doug Houser.

In 1987, Rod Houser - Doug's brother - and his wife, Lois, were murdered at their Terrebonne home by Randy Guzek, Mark Wilson and Donald Ross Cathey. Guzek, a dark, vicious soul, was sentenced to death, Wilson and Cathey to life sentences with a slim possibility of parole.

Over the last 30 years, the Oregon Supreme Court has three timesoverturned Guzek's sentence on procedural grounds. Each time Marquis took charge of the prosecution and convinced another jury that Guzek deserves Death Row.
Fan mail from the late Justice Antonin  Scalia. Photo: Steve Duin
"He kept his promises," says Houser, 83, a Portland attorney. "Even when he left Deschutes County and became district attorney in Clatsop County, he said that if necessary he would use family vacation time to retry the murder case of the guy who killed my brother and sister-in-law.

"He always found a way to come back and, at great personal sacrifice, fulfill his promise to our family. I admire Josh greatly. He was constant and steady and loyal to Oregon taxpayers and to our family."

Marquis retires at year's end. In early 1994, then-Gov. Barbara Roberts sent him to the Oregon coast, asking him to salvage an office that his predecessor, Julie Ann Leonhardt, disgraced en route to indictment and recall.

He'd never set foot in Astoria before the fall of '93, but he landed well, successfully winning election to the DA's office in 1994. Marquis was never challenged in his five subsequent re-election campaigns.

He was, however, quoted. Interminably. Often by me.

"Lawyers are trained to deliberately obfuscate," Marquis says. That's not his style. He understands how media operates, having worked for the Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon. He knows the case is best served when he patiently, exhaustively frames it.

"He talks, and he explains things," says Steve Forrester, the retired publisher of The Daily Astorian and chief exec of the EO Media Group. "Our papers in eastern Oregon have had DAs that are the reverse, and it's not fun for them."

"I like to think reporters call me because I'm an easy date," Marquis says. "I'll talk on the record. I'll give them a definite viewpoint."

Yes,but an uncluttered mind. Photo: Steve Duin
On the evolving reaction to the victims' rights movement and the lack of prosecutors on Oregon's high courts. On Lars. On local drunken driving cases. On his dogged affection for the nearest stray cat.

"He's a political gadfly and a gossip," says state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose. "He's an idiot savant who can remember how a precinct in Portland voted during the Eisenhower administration. I refer to him publicly as the DA from hell."

If you know Johnson, you recognize this as high praise. "You can have spirited disagreements with him," Johnson adds, "and it never gets personal."

Marquis takes many things personally, especially animal rights and his national prominence in the death-penalty debate. "I'm probably the most quoted DA in the United States on the subject of capital punishment," he notes.

But the Guzek case aside, he admits to increased ambivalence on the subject as "the absolute certitude that often comes with youth and inexperience" ages on the vine.

"If you're involved in this business and you're not ambivalent about it," Marquis says, "something is wrong." He credits Richard Dieter at the Death Penalty Information Center for reformulating the arguments against capital punishment, focusing on racial disparities and the quality of legal representation rather questions of morality.

"My plaintive cry has always been, 'Let's be honest.' If you think it's morally wrong for a state to kill, I'm never going to convince you otherwise. My morality doesn't trump your morality."

And if you believe families like the Housers deserve your trust, you battle to the end, without compromise or disdain.

"In debating the death penalty around the world, I've always been struck by the high level of civility," Marquis says. "What scares the hell out of me, as the son of a political-science professor who lived through the Nixon era, is that I've never seen anything as toxic as the way Washington is now.

"I'm frightened by the absence of civility. I admire passion. I try not to let that get in the way of civility."

In the months to come, Ron Brown, Marquis's deputy and the prosecutor in Guzek's original aggravated murder trial, will take command of the Clatsop DA's office.

Marquis will exit gracefully, but not quietly, especially if Oregon's governor moves to commute the sentences of those on Death Row. He wonders if his opinion will matter as much when he retires, and he shouldn't.

The man speaks his mind. He revels in spirited disagreements. He keeps his promises. The impassioned discourse on the nature of justice in Oregon wouldn't be the same without him.

-- Steve Duin

Read the Opinion piece on the Oregonian website.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fallen officers honored

I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the annual memorial ceremony for fallen officers at the Oregon Police Academy. In attendance were several hundred uniformed police officers and the families of those men and women killed on duty, including the family of Seaside Police Sgt. Jason Goodding, whose end of watch was February 5, 2016.

, Statesman JournalPublished 8:01 p.m. PT May 8, 2018

Hundreds of city, county and state officers gathered to honor the Oregon law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty since the 1880s at the annual Fallen Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

While uniformed officers stood in the sun, dozens of family members of fallen officers found refuge under a white canopy at the fallen officers' memorial at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.

While there were no new names carved into the granite this year, officials announced there will be another name added next year.

Photo: MOLLY J. SMITH / Statesman Journal)
Ashland Police Officer Malcus Williams, who was the most recent Oregon officer to die in the line of duty on March 2, is scheduled to be honored in the 2019 ceremony.

"Williams was one of thousands of men and women who took an oath to serve and protect, and wear a badge and a uniform to ensure we live in safe communities," said Heidi Moawad, the public safety policy adviser to Gov. Kate Brown. "The process is underway to add his name to this memorial that already has too many."

He is the 184th Oregon officer to die in the line of duty.Williams was responding to a report of a domestic violence call when he experienced a "major medical event" and later died.

It is customary not to add names of a fallen officer to a memorial during the same year of their death, according to the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

The annual ceremony honors officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies who have served as law enforcement officers, corrections officers and parole and probation officers.

Photo: MOLLY J. SMITH / Statesman Journal)
Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis delivered the keynote address, saying it is important to honor fallen officers everyday and not just with annual ceremonies.

"Most societies going back thousands of years believe that if people’s names were remembered, their souls lived on," Marquis said. "The day that no one ever spoke their name again is the day they truly died."

Officials placed two wreaths at the closing of the ceremony, with one wreath representing the loss of a loved one by the families, and the other representing the loss of colleague by the broader law enforcement family.

Eriks Gabliks, the director of Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, or DPSST, said the memorial serves as a daily reminder of the sacrifices Oregon officers have made to protect residents and the state's natural resources.

"Each morning, officers attending basic training at the academy honor our nation, our state, and our fallen during the morning color ceremony," Gabliks said. "We gather here today for a purpose, we gather here to honor, we gather here to remember."

The ceremony was hosted in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation and other state law enforcement agencies.

The annual service comes a week ahead of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony in Washington, D.C., where 21,541 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty will be honored.

For more information on the Oregon Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Memorial, visit:

Email Lauren Hernandez at, call 503-399-6743 or follow on Twitter @LaurenPorFavor

More photos and a short video of the ceremony on the Statesman Journal website.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Your Voice, Your Vote appearance

Thanks to long-time KATU-TV anchor Steve Dunn for affording me the opportunity on Your Voice, Your Vote to say "Goodbye and thanks for all the fish!" (See: Douglas Taylor, Hitchicker's Guide to the Galaxy.)

Address to Columbia Forum

Many thanks to Graham Nystrom, station manager of Coast Community Radio (KMUN 91.9 Astoria, KTCB 89.5 Tillamook, KCPB 90.9 Astoria), for recording my address to the Columbia Forum on March 6th. This is not my version of David Sanborn's "The Long Goodbye," which I play at the end of my jazz shows, 6:00-8:00pm Pacific, first and third Mondays.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Columbia Forum rescheduled

I hope you'll join me this coming Tuesday, March 6, for the Columbia Forum, rescheduled from February 20. 6:00pm social hour, 6:30pm dinner, talk starts at 7:00. CMH Community Center (formerly OSU Seafood Lab), 20th and Exchange. Do you think I'll give up pushing criminal justice policy when I'm no longer DA?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why Clatsop County must have a new jail

Guest column: A new county jail is absolutely necessary
Failure to fund jail will put lives at risk
By Joshua Marquis
Published on February 28, 2018 10:24AM
Last changed on February 28, 2018 10:44AM

In a guest column published last week, Richard Elfering, who identifies as a mental health advocate, claims the proposed new jail is utterly unnecessary, and instead argues Clatsop County should fund a massive treatment center, the cost of which is not discussed.

After 25 years I am leaving public office as your district attorney, so I have no personal or professional benefit that would accrue from the county finally having enough jail beds. I’m weighing in because, as a citizen, the failure to fund a new jail will mean our failure to appear rate will dramatically increase above the current 33 percent, and worse — more critically — vulnerable lives will be put at risk.

This isn’t political hyperbole. I invite anyone to come to court any weekday at 1:15 p.m. I, or one of my deputies, will be arraigning in-custody defendants and you’ll see the court forced to release people accused of felony domestic violence and other crimes, even many with lengthy histories of convictions. I’ll be happy to explain what and why we’re doing what we have to that day.

A jail is not a prison. It has completely different goals and design and it certainly is not “only punitive.” A jail is used primarily as a safe place to hold people not yet tried for serious crimes who’ve shown they are either unlikely to appear in court voluntarily or pose an immediate and serious risk to victims and the community. The claim that “the state and nation are trying to get out of the prison system” makes little sense. Oregon has no private prisons or jails, nor should it. It would be a utopian goal to “abolish prisons,” and I suppose by extension even jails. But that would be a massive abdication of responsibility.

We already spend millions of dollars on mental health services and while it’s still not enough (as I have repeatedly publicly advocated) the idea that we could — or should — involuntarily detain mentally ill people to force help on them simply won’t fly legally. There is no legal way to “briefly hold and detoxify” someone without due process. Beyond that it is extravagantly expensive, far beyond the jail proposed to be adapted from the recently closed Oregon Youth Authority facility.

It was hard enough — it took years and special outside funding — to open the crisis respite center in Warrenton and that only offers about a dozen nonsecure beds. In a better world we’d have a custodial psychiatric unit — essentially what the writer suggests — but that is far more expensive, takes far more staffing and requires a different funding stream.

Let’s start with our most immediate need and what we actually can afford. I’d like a brand-new Jaguar, but I can’t afford it. Few counties 10 times our size can afford a large treatment center.

The staff of the jail goes to great lengths to avoid keeping people whose primary issue is mental illness, not serious criminal behavior. We have an elaborate and expensive process for involuntary mental commitment. We spend additional millions in Clatsop County through the Oregon Health Plan. People in jail are not there because they’re depressed or addicted — they’re in for burglary, assault and child molestation.

Oregon, including Clatsop County, has a much lower incarceration rate than most of the United States. Jail is used to leverage cooperation by the 75 percent of those convicted felons on probation. At 60-bed maximum capacity, our jail is at about 30 percent of what the judges need. More importantly, nobody in Oregon — even someone in “full psychosis” — can be detained without a lawyer and a hearing.

Voters have turned down two previous jail bonds that would have required entirely new construction. This proposal about to be discussed on March 14 at the county commission uses an existing facility and will be partly funded by county timber revenues. Let’s not sink the jail proposal before it’s even proposed.

Come to the county commission meeting at 6 p.m. March 14 at the Judge Guy Boyington Building in Astoria to hear what we have to say about the proposal to relocate the county jail to a larger facility in Warrenton. We desperately need more jail beds, which would be accomplished much more economically by this than any other plan.

Joshua Marquis is the Clatsop County district attorney.

Read the OpEd on the Daily Astorian website.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Columbia Forum, Feb 20, 2018

For the third, and likely last, time in the 25 years I’ve been DA, I'll speak Tuesday night, February 20, at the Columbia Forum. I hope to enlighten and entertain. Come and AMA (ask me anything). I hope you'll join me. Appetizers at 6. Dinner at 6:30. Reservations required: or 503-325-3211.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Retirement piece by Cindy Yengst, Columbia Press, Jan 30, 2018

Not easy to read here, so probably no one will. I post it to remind me of what a good writer Cindy Yengst is. She captured my time as DA better than most.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Thanks for all the fish

Guest  Column
By Joshua Marquis
Published on January 5, 2018 8:42AM

In 1994 I was appointed by Oregon’s first woman governor, Barbara Roberts, to complete the term of a disgraced, disbarred and convicted Clatsop County district attorney. I’ve had the honor since then to be elected six consecutive times. After 25 years as chief prosecutor, I’ve decided not to stand for what would be my seventh full term. Jan. 7, 2019, will be my last day as your district attorney.

This decision wasn’t easy to make. I love the job. I work with a truly outstanding staff of lawyers, paralegals and victims’ advocates, all recognized throughout the state for their skills and experience. Office manager Lori Johnson has worked in the district attorney’s office even longer than I have. Fortunately, Lori is much younger than I am, as she is irreplaceable for the proper functioning of the office. Two of my former chief deputies now serve as judges on the Circuit Court bench — Cindee Matyas and Dawn McIntosh. In 2017, deputy David Goldthorpe left the office after being appointed district attorney of Malheur County.

Given over a dozen county managers and likely twice that number of county commissioners, at times my relationship with management has been … interesting. I’ve not always received the budgets I’ve requested, but I’ve always received the funding I needed to ensure I could attract good people to an office that is adequately staffed and appropriately compensated, in a renovated historic courthouse, in a stellar natural setting. I thank you all.

I’ve met hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims and witnesses and their families. Many have humbled me with their grace and eloquence, often in the face of horrific crimes. Even the so-called “nonviolent” crimes, like those involving fraud and drugs, can have enormous impacts that do great and lasting harm. It seems criminal to me that the term “criminal justice reform” has twisted so that it now means reducing jail and prison sentences, rather than truth in sentencing and the rights of victims. I have been and will remain a strong advocate for those and other true reforms.

I’ll continue also to advocate for laws against animal cruelty, for enforcement of driving while impaired laws, for reasonable and responsible funding for prosecutors and law enforcement. I’ll continue to expose the rampant and epidemic lies told by various media outlets, criminal defense organizations and billionaire philanthropist George Soros about prosecutorial misconduct. For most of us who prosecute for a career — not as a step to six- and seven-figure incomes defending white-collar defendants — the worst possible trial outcome is not an acquittal. Any of us worth our salt have lost cases where the defendant was clearly guilty. No, the worst nightmare of any prosecutor is convicting someone who is innocent of that offense. Those of us who are seen as cutting corners to win usually find ourselves unemployed, as we should.

The office of district attorney offers a morally luxurious job. I answer to my conscience and the voters. My sole allegiance is not to a paying client, but to the truth. What I hope to be remembered for most is my zealous advocacy for victims and for an office that serves the county without, as early American oaths often required, “fear or favor or hope of reward.” My office has never prosecuted anyone because of a personal beef, or not prosecuted because of a personal relationship. Police officers, government officials, locally prominent citizens, neighbors, have all been through the system. We are, as John Adams said, a nation of laws, not of men.

So, what next? I expect I’ll be far less cautious and guarded in my public comments on criminal justice than I have been while in office. I enjoy speaking to groups at universities and associations around the country. I particularly enjoy research and writing. I’m active on the board of directors of the National District Attorneys Association, and will continue crafting policy there. I hope to continue for another 24 summers my occasional three-line role as the cowardly sheriff in “Shanghaied in Astoria,” and go into a third decade with a jazz show as the DA DJ on KMUN.

Until then, until Jan. 8, 2019, I’ll do the job the voters have asked me to do.

For the first several years as DA, I tried all the murder cases alone. I came to realize that including a deputy not only helped me and gave them experience, but I enjoyed mentoring. As my office grew from seven employees in 1994 to 20 today, more and more of the job has become administrative. Those 20 women and men do 95 percent of the daily work in the office, and will continue to do so well after I’m gone.

Ron Brown has been chief deputy since 2004. He’s developed a particularly strong skill for prosecuting sexual assault cases, sadly much more common than you might think. He has deep compassion for victims. He has the respect and admiration of the office because of his toughness at trial and his deep commitment to victims. Ron will be filing for the post as my successor, and will be on the ballot in May. I urge you to support him.

Many people showed me great kindness when I moved here as a largely unknown quantity. The late Hal Snow and his wife and partner, Jeanyse. Then vice chair of the County Commission, Don Haskell, and his wife, Carol. Steve Forrester, then the editor and publisher of The Daily Astorian. The late Randy Bowe, and Debra Bowe, who found me a literal home and threw my first welcoming party. Judy Niland and friends at the Astor Street Opry Company. Former KMUN station manager Doug Sweet.

I owe a special thanks to my greatest political ally, a force majeure, state Sen. Betsy Johnson, Oregon’s best friend of public safety.

Cindy Price and I have made Astoria our home for 23 years. I’ve no intention of retiring elsewhere. Cindy wouldn’t leave Astoria even if I did have such ideas, so that’s that. I’ll still be meeting you at the post office, at the grocery store, at the butcher shop, at the restaurants.

Despite the Douglas Adams reference in the title, I’m not leaving the planet, just the job I have loved. It is the greatest privilege in my life to stand in the well of the courtroom and represent the people of Oregon.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me the pleasures of this fascinating job.

Read the column on the Daily Astorian website.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Leaving the fair

A fair story about my chance to explain why - as Joan Didion would say - it’s time to “leave the fair.” In January 2019 I will be leaving the job I’ve loved the most, representing the People of the State of Oregon from the well of the courtroom.  Following the story is the Daily Astorian's editorial.

Clatsop County District Attorney Marquis
will not seek re-election
Veteran prosecutor will leave office after nearly 25 years
By Jack Heffernan The Daily Astorian
Published on January 4, 2018 12:01AM
Last changed on January 4, 2018 10:40AM

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, a local prosecutor who built a national reputation as an advocate for the death penalty, truth in sentencing and crime victims’ rights, will not run for re-election.

The courtroom veteran informed his staff on Wednesday he will retire when his four-year term ends in January 2019, nearly 25 years after his appointment to restore an office tainted by corruption.

“A graceful exit is as important as a graceful entrance,” Marquis said. “I’ve sort of been thinking about this for a year or two or maybe longer.”

Voluble and combative, Marquis was elected six times since Gov. Barbara Roberts appointed him in 1994.

Marquis, 65, remembered the unusual circumstances that brought him to Astoria in the first place. His predecessor, Julie Leonhardt, was recalled and convicted of framing two police officers for drugs in an attempt to clear her fiancée of criminal charges.

A chief deputy in Deschutes County before Leonhardt was removed, Marquis drove to and from the North Coast for six weekends in anticipation that he might get the job.

“I didn’t know if it was the kind of place I would like, and I wanted to talk to people,” he said.

Marquis’ first election — his only contested one — came just two months after being sworn in.

“It was a very odd way to enter elected office,” he said. “That was very challenging.”

Colin  Murphey / The Daily Astorian
Top prosecutor

As the county’s top prosecutor, Marquis handled many of the most high-profile trials over the past few decades. But he also delegated cases to deputies such as Dawn McIntosh — now a Circuit Court judge — and Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown.

Brown is expected to run for district attorney in the May election.

“As much as I enjoyed it, I was never going to give others in my office the chance to learn how to do it and, frankly, two brains are better than one,” Marquis said. “Part of that, I think, is just growing up as a manager, particularly of a DA’s office.”

He most clearly recalled the cases over his career where he developed a relationship with the victim’s family.

The most recent example came in the case of Jessica Smith, a Washington state woman who was sentenced in 2016 to life in prison for drowning her infant daughter and attempting to kill her teenage daughter at a Cannon Beach hotel.

Marquis was giving a lecture to law students in Chicago in 2014 when he received the call about the case. He hurried home and spent the next few days in Cannon Beach as authorities searched for Smith. Over the course of the two-year case, he developed relationships with the daughter who survived the attack as well as the father, he said.

Vocal district attorney

Marquis, who describes himself as a centrist Democrat, has cultivated a reputation as one of the most vocal district attorneys in Oregon and across the country.

He has been a leader in prosecuting animal abuse and elder abuse crimes. He has spoken out against marijuana legalization and the reclassification of heroin and methamphetamine possession from felonies to misdemeanors. He has advocated for truth in sentencing and the death penalty. He has also been among the biggest skeptics of reform initiatives intended to reduce prison use for drug and property crimes.

Colin Murphey / The Daily Astorian
His columns have been published in newspapers from The Daily Astorian and The Oregonian to The New York Times, and he has made a host of national television appearances. A frequent voice on criminal justice issues at the state Capitol in Salem, Marquis has also testified before Congress five times.

“I’ve seen Josh on just about everything,” Brown said. “He’s been on Court TV and you name it. He enjoys that kind of thing.”

David Rogers, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, has challenged Marquis on a number of issues. But his ability to convey his viewpoints is not one of them.

“Mr. Marquis likes attention and puts himself out there,” Rogers said. “There’s probably much more knowledge of where he stands than of other district attorneys in the state.”

Marquis, a former journalist, shrugs off the suggestion that he courts publicity.

“The thrill of being in The New York Times sort of wore off about 10 years ago,” he said.

Marquis said the only higher office he’s considered was U.S. attorney in Oregon. After campaigning for Barack Obama for president in 2008, he was a finalist for the job but eventually passed over, he said.

“In reflection, I’m probably glad I didn’t get it. You don’t have as much autonomy as I do as district attorney,” Marquis said. “I’ve never sought any other political office and, frankly, being the DA is a terrible way to do it. You piss off too many people either by prosecuting them or not prosecuting them.”

Local duels

Marquis has long supported a new county jail and fought to move drunken-driving cases from Astoria Municipal Court to Circuit Court.

The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners briefly revoked his stipend in 2007 before it was reinstated, a move that Marquis maintains was a political jab.

“I’m sure people feel like it’s playing whack-a-mole to shut me up sometimes. I was annoying.” Marquis said. “I have never withdrawn from public debate out of concern that this is going to bite me in my political ambitions, and I’m sure I’ve paid a price for it as a result.”

Most recently, he has battled the ACLU, which raises a stern eyebrow to what it views as Marquis’ tough-on-crime policies. The organization also launched a campaign last year to inform voters about district attorneys in the hopes that it will lead to criminal justice reform. Marquis has criticized the campaign, saying it has been led by out-of-state interests.

As a core example of what it says is a lack of accountability among district attorneys, the ACLU has pointed to a number of top prosecutors in the state, like Marquis, who often run unopposed. Marquis said, though, that the campaign did not influence his decision not to seek re-election.

“If it was up to that, I’d run again just to prove to them that I can get elected for a seventh term,” Marquis said.

Rogers doesn’t doubt that.

“Josh Marquis is a strong-minded person,” Rogers said. “It would be great if we had that ability and power with him, but he seems stuck in his ways.”

Rogers points to that tendency as a possible reason why opponents have rarely challenged Marquis around election season.

“He certainly doesn’t hesitate to show harsh words with those he’s disagreed with. People may not be willing to get involved with that.” Rogers said. “Voters in Clatsop County haven’t had much of a choice.”


Marquis credits his upbringing for his ability to juggle multiple things at once.

His mother came from a Mormon family, and his great-grandfather was a polygamist. His father was a refugee from Nazi Germany. They did not have a television in the house until he was 17 years old, forcing him to read books night and day.

“I was very fortunate who my parents were,” Marquis said.

The curiosity from reading led him to pursue a career in journalism in college. Even after attending law school, he spent time in the early 1980s both as a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal — a legal newspaper — and as a speechwriter for then-California Attorney General John Van de Kamp. “I really thought I was going to be a journalist when I was an undergraduate,” Marquis said. “Most of my friends were journalists, most of the women I was dating were reporters until, in fact, I married Cindy in 1995.”

His wife, Cindy Price, serves on the Astoria City Council.

Journalism offered Marquis a glimpse into a number of realms, including district attorneys’ offices.

“I just found what they did in the DA’s office absolutely fascinating,” Marquis said. “My time as a reporter made me learn that if I wanted to defend the poor and the helpless and the vulnerable, it wasn’t going to be as a defense attorney. It was going to be as a prosecutor.”

Marquis does not plan to run for political office, he said. He also vowed not to try to run the district attorney’s office from the outside.

“If they want my counsel, they’ll ask for it,” he said. “I don’t plan on thinking that I can continue running or influencing that office any more than any other citizen.”

But don’t expect him to back away from public debate. In retirement, he will have more time to read, to write and to talk. He will also have more freedom to express his opinions.

“I intend to be more outspoken — not to be the shy, soft-spoken, cautious individual I’ve been for the last 24 years,” Marquis said.

He was only half-joking.

Read the story on the Daily Astorian website.

Our view: Marquis leaves a legacy of competence
as district attorney
The prosecutor also pioneered on animal abuse and elder abuse
Published on January 4, 2018 8:58AM

Josh Marquis has been Clatsop County district attorney so long that few of us remember what brought him to office. It was the utterly disastrous, brief career of Julie Leonhardt that opened the way for Gov. Barbara Roberts to appoint Marquis.

The short version of the Leonhardt fiasco was that she was indicted and convicted of lying to a grand jury. She was recalled from office, convicted and disbarred.

Marquis, who announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, brought competence to the job. He was experienced at prosecuting murders. His instinct about animal abuse was humane and wise. He broke ground in prosecuting elder abuse.

This newspaper has appreciated Marquis because of his openness. He has been eager to explain aspects of criminal justice and accessible to our reporters. Grasping those sometime arcane elements is essential to writing about the criminal courts.

This county has witnessed some seven murders during Marquis’ tenure. His office handled them competently. And if we did not appreciate that, we only had to look across the Columbia River into Pacific County, Washington, where a weak prosecutor, David Burke, dropped the ball.

For years and for very good reason, Marquis argued against prosecuting drunken-driving cases in Astoria Municipal Court. Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen and his City Council allies protected that flawed system. Once Van Dusen was out of office, the new mayor and council moved the city’s drunken-driving cases to Circuit Court.

The case of an animal collector, Vikki Kittles, who arrived with a school bus full of cats, prompted Marquis to make animal abuse a state legislative issue.

When the late Hal Snow brought Marquis evidence of an elder abuse case out of Warrenton, the DA seized the moment. The testimony of accountant Jim Lanzarotta was a critical element in the prosecution. It was a complicated case, and the prosecution prevailed. Meanwhile, elder abuse unfortunately has become predictable in our local culture, as it has nationally.

The good news in Marquis’ retirement is that competent candidates will emerge. After 24 years of having a well-run district attorney’s office, the voters expect it. And that is Marquis’ best legacy.

Read the editorial on the Daily Astorian website.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

PBS Newshour on felony conviction rates

I was asked to comment about why, with the incidence of some violent crimes decreasing, there is an increase in felonies. Maybe because we take some crimes, like domestic violence, more seriously? [This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and broadcast on the PBS Newshour on January 2, 2018. You can view the original report on the Stateline website.] 
When crime is a major concern in a community, elected district attorneys are especially sensitive to public pressure to file more felony charges, Marquis said. 
“We are not rewarded for the number of felonies filed,” Marquis said. “But we do face election and accountability to our neighbors who are also our bosses.”
Felony conviction rates are up nationwide. These states are reconsidering how they classify crimes.
Tim Henderson, Stateline
January 2, 2018

In recent decades, every state has seen a dramatic increase in the share of its population convicted of a felony, leaving more people facing hurdles in finding a job and a place to live and prompting some states to revisit how they classify crimes.

In Georgia, 15 percent of the adult population was a felon in 2010, up from around 4 percent in 1980. The rate was above 10 percent in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas.

Less than 5 percent of the population in Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Utah and West Virginia were felons, but every state had a large increase between 1980 and 2010, when the felony population ranged from 1 to 5 percent, according to a University of Georgia study published in October.

The new estimates only go through 2010, before many states began to reclassify some crimes, scale back sentencing and take other steps to lower incarceration rates and ease ex-offenders back into society. But they are the first attempt to gauge the state-by-state buildup of felons during a nationwide, decades-long surge in punishment: Less than 2 million people were in prison or jail or on parole or probation in 1980, compared with more than 7 million in 2007.

John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University, called the study “incredibly important,” but noted that with many gaps in information provided by states, further study may be needed to ensure an accurate picture. Nonetheless, he said, some of the state differences make intuitive sense.

“Georgia has been trying to get people out of prison with probation, but we’re seeing that even with probation they’re still getting that record,” Pfaff said. It’s possible that in states with relatively small black populations like West Virginia and New Hampshire, “without that racial divide between a white correctional system and a poor black population, it may be no coincidence that there’s a lower felony rate,” he said.

Proponents of more lenient sentencing tend to focus on imprisonment, where Louisiana and Oklahoma have the highest rates, but probation is more common.

There were 1.9 million people on felony probation in 2015, compared to 1.5 million in prison. In 2010, the two figures were about the same, at 1.6 million, according to the latest federal statistics.

Many view probation as a more humane alternative to imprisonment, said Michelle Phelps, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. But in some states probation has become a “net widener” that draws more nonviolent criminals into the stigma and harsh supervision of a felony conviction.

Phelps pointed to Minnesota, which has one of the lowest rates of imprisonment, but ranked 16th for felon population in 2010. That year felons were about 9 percent of Minnesota’s population, or nearly quadruple the rate in 1980.

“Though it’s frequently dismissed as a slap on the wrist, probation can entail onerous requirements,” Phelps said. For instance, probation can require a job and good housing as a condition for staying out of prison, but the felony conviction itself can make it hard or impossible to get that job.

Gary Mohr, who heads Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said a felony conviction can have lifelong consequences, no matter whether the punishment is imprisonment or probation.

“Even probation or a six-month sentence is really a life sentence because it affects jobs, it affects housing, it affects everything in their lives,” Mohr said.

Easing the Path

Several states have moved in recent years to ease the path for convicted felons, including restoring voting rights and prohibiting employers from asking job applicants if they have a criminal record.

Even some red-state conservatives support moves to erase the stigma and help people with felony convictions rejoin their communities.

Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said his group supported legislation in Texas and elsewhere to ease the way for felons to return to the community.

He cited a Texas bill that would have allowed some felons to seal their criminal records, though the final law that took effect in September only extended to misdemeanors. A 2015 Texas law provided legal immunity to landlords who rent to felons, and a 2009 law made it easier for felons to get occupational licenses.

In 2010, Texas was tied with Louisiana for the fourth-highest percentage of population with a felony conviction, at about 10.5 percent. That was triple Texas’s 1980 rate.

The findings may help put probation reform on the front burner in some states.

In Georgia, a February 2017 report by a state commission called for shorter probation sentences and lighter caseloads for probation officers. (The Pew Charitable Trusts, which also funds Stateline, assisted with the paper.) Almost 3 percent of Georgia’s adult population was on felony probation as of 2015 — far more than any other state and a 12 percent increase from 2010, according to the latest federal figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Georgia already has taken action to reduce felony convictions. For example, as part of sentencing and classification changes enacted in 2012, the state raised its felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,500.

Felony thresholds vary widely from state to state, from $200 in Florida to $2,500 in Texas. In recent years, many states have raised them to reflect inflation and reduce felony convictions.

Racial Disparities

When crime rates rose in the 1980s and early 1990s, local and state leaders hired more police and they made more arrests, including felony arrests, Phelps said.

In addition, many states elevated nonviolent crimes like drug possession to felony status, and many district attorneys adopted a get-tough strategy, seeking felony charges whenever possible. Police focused drug enforcement on high-crime neighborhoods, which were often predominantly African-American, Phelps said. As a result, felony convictions rose much faster among blacks than among whites.

In 2010, about 23 percent of the black population had a felony conviction. The number of African-American felons increased more than fivefold between 1980 and 2010, while the number increased threefold for other felons. The University of Georgia study did not calculate separate rates for Hispanics or other minority groups.

In left-leaning states such as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon, one contributor to the growing share of the population with a felony conviction was an increased awareness of new crimes like domestic violence, sexual abuse and animal abuse, said Josh Marquis, a district attorney in Oregon and a 20-year board member of the National District Attorneys Association.

When crime is a major concern in a community, elected district attorneys are especially sensitive to public pressure to file more felony charges, Marquis said.

“We are not rewarded for the number of felonies filed,” Marquis said. “But we do face election and accountability to our neighbors who are also our bosses.”