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Justices uphold death sentence for Gresham man

2010 conviction followed 2004 murder in Clackamas County.


The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for a Gresham man convicted of a 2004 murder in Clackamas County.

The court, in an opinion released Thursday, rejected all 22 arguments brought on appeal by Michael Spencer Washington Jr. He was convicted in 2010 for the aggravated murder of Mohamed Jabbie, 33, who had dated Washington's long-time girlfriend and who had testified against him in connection with an assault.

Washington, now 41, is among 33 men and one woman who are on death row at the Oregon State Penitentiary, according to a Department of Corrections list.

Among the objections raised by Washington were his having to wear a stun device while in the courtroom, the seating of an anonymous jury and Oregon's use of a three-drug protocol for lethal injection.

But Justice Jack Landau, writing for the court, dismissed the latter objection as premature. Like other death sentences, Washington's case will undergo further review at several levels first.

"We agree with the state that the specific method of defendant's execution — as opposed to the death sentence itself — is not ripe for consideration by this court," he wrote.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal injections in 2008, they have come under scrutiny recently after a botched execution in Oklahoma on April 29, when it took 43 minutes for the inmate to die.

An execution in Oregon would not be imminent anyway, because Gov. John Kitzhaber imposed a moratorium on Nov. 22, 2011, effective for as long as he is governor.

Landau also said that security measures were justified by Washington's history of violence, his aggressiveness toward witnesses, and his membership in a gang. Juror names were disclosed to Washington's lawyers, but jurors were referred to in the courtroom only by numbers.

Washington, through his lawyers, asserted that the security measures resulted in an unfair trial.

Some gang members attended Washington's trial, during which several previous victims testified.

Jabbie was an immigrant from the African nation of Sierra Leone.

Key testimony in the 2010 trial was provided by Shirleen Stafford, Washington's girlfriend, who initially was charged as an accomplice in the murder. The charge was reduced to hindering prosecution.

Washington beat Jabbie at Stafford's home on July 4, 2004. The day after Jabbie testified to a grand jury, Jabbie was shot by Washington in the chest seven times on Sept. 24, 2004, in Jabbie's apartment as Stafford stepped in and out. His body was discovered by police a few days later.

However, it was only in 2007 that Clackamas County officials were able to gather enough evidence to indict Washington and Stafford.

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Adds Gov. John Kitzhaber's moratorium on executions in Oregon; national questions raised about lethal injections in executions.