Gov. John Kitzhaber
Calling the system "compromised and inequitable," Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has stopped executions in the state
during his tenure.
SALEM -- Gov. John Kitzhaber announced today he will not allow the execution of Gary Haugen—or any death row inmate—to take place while he is in office. [...]
The governor cited his constitutional authority to grant a temporary reprieve for Haugen, in effect canceling the planned Dec. 6 lethal injection of the twice-convicted murderer. Haugen waived his legal appeals and has been preparing for the execution, which would have been Oregon's first in 14 years.
The change of heart comes as a surprise for a governor who twice before—in his first term as governor—allowed executions to go forward. Despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, Kitzhaber said he was upholding the will of the people in allowing the 1996 execution of Douglas Franklin Wright and the 1997 execution of Harry Charles Moore.
"I have regretted those choices ever since," he wrote in a prepared statement. "Both because of my own deep personal convictions about capital punishment and also because in practice, Oregon has an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice." [...]
Kitzhaber said his decision is not out of compassion for Haugen or other inmates. But the death penalty is not handed down fairly—some inmates on death row have committed similar crimes as those who are serving life sentences, he said. It is a criticism Haugen himself has often made and cites as a reason that he has volunteered to die, protesting the unfairness of the death penalty.
In addition, Oregon only executes those who volunteer, Kitzhaber said, calling the state's system "a perversion of justice."
Kitzhaber hasn't commuted the sentences of death row inmates with this decision, but has called for the state legislature to consider the death penality in the next session. So Oregon could follow the lead of Illinois, where the legislature banned the death penalty following the moratorium placed on executions by former Gov. George Ryan in 2000.