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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Well Done, Bulletin (And We Mean It)

The Eye rarely has anything good to say about The Bulletin's editorial page, but this being the season of peace and good will, we're going

Posted By on Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 8:47 AM

The Eye rarely has anything good to say about The Bulletin's editorial page, but this being the season of peace and good will, we're going to pass out accolades for its series of editorials on the David Black case.

David Black is a young man who was peripherally involved in a fatal accident resulting from street racing in 2003. Because District Attorney Mike Dugan wanted to make an example out of somebody to deter street racing - and because Black refused to cop a plea to the serious charges the DA's office filed against him - he ended up getting sentenced to 75 months in prison. (That's six years and three months, if you don't feel like doing the math.)

Black's co-defendant, Randall Clifford, accepted a plea bargain and ended up spending only three months behind bars. Even the judge who sentenced Black agreed that the penalty was "disparate," but he had no choice under Measure 11, a Kevin Mannix-backed get-tough-on-crime initiative passed by Oregon voters in 1994.

In an excellent series of editorials (unfortunately available on-line to subscribers only) The Bulletin compares Black's case to those of others involved in similar - or much worse - incidents, including Christopher Goodson, a hardened criminal who killed a Bend woman in a grisly hit-and-run accident on Third Street in 2007, then tried to conceal his crime by reporting his car stolen and burning it. Goodson ended up getting the exact same sentence that Black did.

The editorial series is a scalding indictment not only of an overzealous DA's office but of Measure 11, which was designed - and sold to the voters - as a policy to deal with hard cases like Goodson, not people like David Black. "Black is ... in a terrible predicament that ought to appall Oregon's legislators, who have the ability to adjust Measure 11's strict requirements," The Bulletin writes. "Black's sentence is an affront to both justice and common sense."

The series concluded Friday with an appeal to Gov. Ted Kulongoski to commute Black's sentence. We hope the governor will listen. (If you want to add your voice to The Bulletin's appeal, you can phone 503-378-4582 or fill out a brief form to send an e-message here.)

In the meantime, we take our hat off to The Bulletin for a thoroughly researched, well-crafted and courageous piece of journalism. Ladies and gentlemen, well done.

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