Fact checking Joshua Marquis

Recently KOIN published a Q and A by reporter Dan Tilkin (DT) and Josh Marquis, the retiring District Attorney from Clatsop County. It was a mix of interesting insight, back patting and misinformation with no fact check or push back by the reporter on some ridiculous on their face answers and statements by Mr. Marquis. So I did a little checking myself.

Dan Tilkin: Why are you retiring.

Josh Marquis: Everything has – or should have – a beginning,a middle, and an end, particularly in political office, which despite my ambivalence about the fact, DA is a political office. I have served almost 25 years, longer than any other person on the 170-year year history of Clatsop County, and it was time for me to give others a chance at the best job I ever had.

                Rob Harris: No comments

DT: What was the biggest case you ever prosecuted?

JM: By most accounts the 20 year (just MY participation) capital murder of Randy Lee Guzek, Oregon’s longest standing death row inmate. I tried the case in 1991, 1997, and 2010 and now his death sentence has been affirmed. He is one of the few truly evil people I’ve prosecuted.

                Rob Harris: Probably an accurate response.

DT: What is the current state of the criminal justice system in Oregon?

JM: In real jeopardy from victim-driven reforms passed by voters over and over again over the last 30 years since Victims Rights was passed in 1986. There is a disturbing trend to apologize to men who rape,murder, beat women, and abuse animals. It will result, as it always has, in more crime, more victims.

                Rob Harris: I have yet to see one instance in my 32 years of practicing law where anyone apologized to men who rape, murder beat women or abuse animals. Nor have I seen any reports of it happening. I have no idea what he’s talking about. I doubt he can find a single instance to back up his claim where anyone with authority has apologized to a guilty man who committed those crimes. What this statement does is set up the narrative that Mr. Marquis is well known for. Anyone who challenges his vision of the criminal justice system loves criminals and hates victims.

DT: Critics say sentencing needs to be “reformed” to lock fewer people up. What’s your response?

JM: “Reformed” when Jennifer Williamson, that means making sure people selling heroin never go to prison, that drunk drivers rarely do jail time. REAL reform was passed at the hands of voters in 1986,1999, 2001, etc. etc.

                Rob Harris: According to statistics at the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, in 2017 there were 454 people  sentenced to Prison for drug offenses. In 2018 the number was 437. As for DUII convictions, On a first conviction there is a mandatory 48 hours in jail or 80 hours of community service. On a first time felony DUII there is a minimum 90 days in jail and the sentencing guideline for a Felony DUII is 13-14 months in prison. Most DUII defense lawyers will advise that a first time conviction will result in 2-30 days in jail, a second conviction 30-90 days in jail and a third conviction 90-180 days in jail. For more than 3 many or most defendants receive a prison sentence. There is no move organized a foot by Ms Williamson or anyone else to reduce or eliminate jail time for DUII or drug dealers. In 2017 a law passed that reduced some cases of possession of small amounts of illegal drugs from felony to misdemeanor. Those cases rarely resulted in substantial jail time anyway and the change was supported by the Oregon DA association as part of a deal to maintain Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentences.

DT: Maybe this is the same question. Critics say Oregon’s prisons are too full. Do you agree?

JM: Now that really is ridiculous. Oregon has among the most lenient criminal laws in America. NOBODY convicted of even DEALING drugs goes to prison, we have the lowest rate of imprisonment in the entire nation, except Vermont. Even child molesters top out at 8 years for raping a 7-year-old. That is simply a lie (an old-fashioned untruth in 1984-speak).

Rob Harris:  See statistics above regarding drug convictions.  As to prison incarceration rates, which also reflects how lenient or harsh our sentencing laws are, in various studies of incarceration rates, Oregon ranks around the middle of the pack not the second lowest. The Vera Institute of Justice ranks Oregon 29th of 50. Departmemt of Justice (2016) shows Oregon at 32nd of 50. The statement that Oregon is among the most lenient criminal laws in America and that it has the second lowest rate  of incarceration among all states appears to be false.

The most egregious claim from Mr. Marquis is his claim that someone convicted of raping a 7 year old can only receive 8 years in prison tops. As Mr. Marquis would say “That is simply a lie, (an old fashioned untruth ins 1984 speak)”. In Oregon anyone convicted of rape where the victim is under 12 years old receives a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison with no release.  Mr. Marquis is either a liar, or the most incompetent and ignorant District Attorney in Oregon.

DT: What are your thoughts about efforts to repeal Measure 11?

JM: Legislators who are being increasingly funded by out of state millionaires and billionaires should listen to regular Oregonians who have voted, first by a 2-to-1 margin in 1994 for the modest reform Measure 11 brought (hurt a child, actually do some prison time) and then 6 years later by a 3-to-1 margin, in 2000 Oregonians reaffirmed it. It would be insanity to repeal Measure 11, usually advocated by people unaffected by violent crime because of their social status.

       Rob Harris:  I agree that there is too much money in politics from the wealth, corporations and public employee unions. It warps our politics and policy in ways that at times bends criminal laws towards special interests rather than good policy. One of the most powerful special interests are prison guard and police officer unions who can benefit from tough on crime laws and full jails and prisons. They regularly offer financial and political support for more jails and prisons and longer sentences. They, along with many District Attorneys, vehemently defend Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing for instance.  And people should know, many defense attorneys have little trouble with the length of sentences for heinous crimes. What they do oppose is the fact that mandatory minimums sentences when coupled with the power to indict, shifts too much power to prosecutors. They believe it’s elected judges and not unelected Deputy District Attorneys who should hold the power of mercy or exceptionally harsh penalties in individual cases. 

 DT: Oregon Governors have suspended the death penalty. Do you think that hamstrings prosecutors?

JM: Of course. It’s an “extra-legal” action, meaning there is no authority. If people like Randy Guzek, and the other 35-cold mass murderers and child killers belong back on the street, let that be done by vote of the people, who ALSO voted capital punishment back in twice, in both 1977 and 1984. NOT ONE SINGLE STATE IN AMERICA has repealed capital punishment by popular vote in over 50 years. California and Nebraska voters recently reaffirmed their support in just the last TWO years.

   Rob Harris:  The Governor certainly has the power to stay executions with the act of clemency. Remember all those movies where the warden is waiting by the phone in the death chamber for a call from the Governors office? If  a blanket stay on executions is illegal, why hasn’t Mr. Marquis filed a petition to challenge the action? Answer, because he knows it’s legal because the Oregon Supreme Court has already said it was! Which makes his statement here knowingly untrue. He also calls all 35 persons on death row mass murders or child killers. But 12 of those prisoners were convicted of killing one adult victim. For sure, horrifically in most cases. A handful of others were accused of killing 2 people. Certainly not all child killers or Mass murderers. But the bigger point is, Marquis is again prevaricating or the least informed DA in Oregon.

      And most importantly here,  Mr. Marquis claims that the alternative to the death penalty is to put mass murders and child killers back on the streets. That’s of course ridiculous. Under Oregon’s aggravated murder statute, the Jury may decide to give a convicted defendant the death penalty,  life without the possibility of parole or the possibility of parole after 30 years. So we already have A true life sentence under Oregon law with absolutely no release. Could a future legislature change that law? I suppose anything is possible, if those Legislators had a desire to never be re-elected. 

DT: Do you see the death penalty being re-implemented?

 JM: After more people are killed by repeat killers, it is possible. As long as those utterly unaffected and unmoved by crime victims, and instead only finding solace in the words of their killers, make these decisions, more innocent blood will be shed.

   Rob Harris:  This is his opinion. My opinion is that  Mr. Marquis has made a name by claiming inaccurately that opponents of the death penalty are sympathetic to horrific murderers and blind to the loss and damage to victims. That is untrue and disgusting.

Final questions that don’t require responses but I include them here for completeness.

DT: Do you have an regrets?

JM: I regret a few cases that I failed the victims in. Two sex abuse cases in Newport in 1988, another in Bend in 1992 and a murder case in Astoria in 2002.

DT: Is there a case that haunts you?

JM: Besides the three mentioned above, the pain many victims suffered haunts me. Injustice haunts me, as it should anyone in the justice system.

DT: Any other issues you want to address?

JM: Many, but see www.coastda.com for the other ways the legislature will try to sabotage truth in sentencing, jury verdicts, DUII law,cruelty to animals prosecution, www.coastda.comffff

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