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Oregon Supreme Court Throws Out Two Measure 11 Sentences

The Oregon Supreme Court has for the first time overridden a voter-approved mandatory minimum sentencing law.

In a ruling Thursday, the justices said that two prison sentences imposed under 1994's Measure 11 were excessive. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

The court ruled in two cases involving sexual contact between adults and 13-year-old children.  In both cases, the contact was brief and did not involve nudity or force.

The defendants were both convicted of first-degree sexual abuse. Measure 11 mandated they get six years and three months in prison.

Now, the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled the state Constitution requires penalties to be proportionate to the offense.

Oregon chief public defender Peter Gartlen successfully argued that shorter sentences were more appropriate.

Peter Gartlen:  "People who voted for Measure 11, I think they would be shocked if they thought that the person who touches somebody else's buttocks over clothing for three seconds should be punished the same as the person who rubs somebody's genitals for ten minutes."

The chief architect of Measure 11, Salem attorney Kevin Mannix, says the ruling will open the door for defense attorneys to file burdensome appeals in challenges to other mandatory minimum sentences.

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