Party Resolutions

Resolution 2020-03: Regarding the Creation of an Innocence Commission

Approved: 12/12/2020


Regarding the Creation of an Innocence Commission

WHEREAS, innocent Oregonians without financial resources have been falsely accused of crimes and unjustly prosecuted under a number of circumstances including: deliberate hiding or withholding of exculpatory witnesses or evidence; lack of unbiased investigation; implicit or explicit racial bias; failure of prosecutors, law enforcement, judges or other officers of the state to follow State protocols or statutes; or out-right Brady rule violations. Such systemic failures have often resulted in wrongful conviction and incarceration, and

WHEREAS, there currently are no penalties attached to Brady violations, to overzealous hyper-criminalization, over-charging, overreach, or unethical pursuit of convictions on the part of prosecutors, and

WHEREAS, prosecutors should be held to the highest standards of investigation and ethical conduct and must be held responsible for violations of these standards; and

WHEREAS, there is abundant historical evidence that overzealous prosecutions disproportionately affect people with reduced economic means since they often cannot offer effective or thorough defenses through the severely underfunded and overworked public defender services statewide, to the degree of being declared Constitutionally out of compliance due to extremely limited case/ client contact time, and

WHEREAS, the difficulties in obtaining contact time essential to mounting an adequate defense are particularly problematic in presumed crimes containing mandatory minimum sentences when 75% of Black defendant cases are assigned court-appointed attorneys, and

WHEREAS, North Carolina created an Innocence Inquiry Commission with Governor-appointed members and Special Ombudsperson who acts as a facilitator: a listening rotating case review body consisting of compassionate faith leaders; e.g., Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and respected human rights, civil rights legal experts, and cultural peer volunteers for oversight hearings and Governor-granted authority to enforce orders for redress, addressing breaches in police/prosecutor accountability which resulted, and

WHEREAS, former Washington State Governor Gary Locke appointed an independent Special Ombudsperson to investigate thoroughly and review daycare sex abuse criminal cases which resulted in vacated convictions and release of 54 wrongfully-convicted incarcerated innocents who had been falsely-accused and wrongfully prosecuted; this legally-trained Special Ombudsperson facilitated hearings and was granted authority to enforce charging orders against police, prosecutors, and State Agencies/agents for breaches in accountability which resulted;


Section 1. To strongly recommend that the Oregon Legislature must take action to address wrongful convictions by creating a State supported yet independent Innocence Inquiry Commission oversight body for fair investigation and thorough case review of wrongful conviction cases of claimed actual innocence facilitated by a Governor-appointed Special Ombudsperson; the Commission will provide unbiased investigation, pro bono process (no fee), to gather and consider all exculpatory evidence for claims of police, prosecutor, State agent, or judicial misconduct, including Brady Violations, racial or other bias, or absence of unbiased fair investigation according to statute, best practices, legal or procedural standards; and

Section 2. To strongly recommend that these Special Oversight Hearings held by the Innocence Inquiry Commission volunteers be facilitated by a legally-trained civil rights expert serving as the Governor-appointed Special Ombudsperson who has been granted the authority to address and rule on charging orders against police, prosecutors, State agents, and judges for criminal misconduct and breaches in accountability; and

Section 3. To recommend that a compensation fund be established to reimburse persons found, after case review by the Commission/ Ombudsperson or a determination by the courts, of wrongful incarceration, upon application, for legal costs incurred for defense during the periods of defense and/or incarceration, up to an amount of $200,000; and

Section 4. To recommend that the State of Oregon attempt to rectify the deep and life-altering suffering of a wrong by compensating those innocent who are found to have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated with a minimum pro-rata $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment (untaxed, Federal US Innocence Protection Act rate, see FACESHEET) plus provide restorative reentry services expenses including physical and mental healthcare, transportation and housing vouchers, tuition stipends/ workforce development and job placement assistance to welcome back the returning; and

Section 5. Further to provide effective redress we recommend a) a Governor-signed Certificate of Innocence and Exoneration, b) a restorative acknowledgment of wrongful conviction, c) immediate expungement and facilitation of removal from all linked City, County, State, Federal, and international criminal database systems and national consortium linked databases.

Resolution Submitted by Lucinda Hites-Clabaugh and Will Hobbs, Washington County.

Forwarded to State Central Committee from the Platform and Resolutions Committee with a “Do Pass” Recommendation

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