The decade's most triggering comedy
Former Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown granted mass commutations to over 1,000 inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the men to whom she granted clemency is now reportedly a person of interest in the killings of four women murdered in 2023.
The 38-year-old man, whose clemency has now been revoked, is currently in custody at Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario on charges apparently unrelated to the murders. When officers tried to arrest the 6’4”, 266-pound man, he tried to swim away in the Willamette River. According to Willamette Week, the attorney who who most recently represented the man no longer does so.
The man was given a “conditional commutation” on March 5, 2021, then released in July 2021, roughly 11 months earlier than his projected release date. He is being linked to the deaths of Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster, and Ashley Real.
The man had been convicted of multiple felonies dating back to 2004; most recently in November 2019, when he pleaded guilty to burglary, unauthorized possession of a stolen vehicle, and injuring a police officer attempting to arrest him.
But after serving with other inmates fighting wildfires, his sentence along with roughly 40 other inmates was reduced by Brown.
On June 1, 2023, The Oregonian reported that six young women’s bodies had been found since mid-February: Smith, found in Southeast Portland; Joanna Speaks, found in Ridgefield, Washington; Charity Perry, found in east Multnomah County; an unidentified woman found in Lents; Bridget Webster, found in Polk County; and Ashley Real, found in Clackamas County.
Brown stated, “I’m absolutely horrified for the victims, their families, and all those who have experienced this loss.”
Brown, who spoke at Princeton University as part of a December 2022 panel titled, “Correcting Injustice: How Clemency Serves Justice and Strengthens Communities,” reduced the sentences of 912 nonviolent inmates who were at risk of contracting COVID and granted 130 pardons.
At the event, Princeton professor and former ACLU activist Udi Ofer boasted of Brown, “She has been and continues to be a trailblazer … according to an article by The Guardian, ‘Governor Kate Brown has granted more commutations and pardons than all of Oregon’s governors combined over the last 50 years,’ which is an incredible accomplishment.”
“Our criminal justice system is flawed, inequitable, and it’s certainly outdated,” Brown declared. “For me, this is truly — using a governor’s executive power to grant clemency — is truly an act of mercy. It is an incredibly useful tool to correct injustices in my state and in this country.”