It’s no surprise that the Oregon Supreme Court has upheld Governor Kitzhaber’s refusal to carry out the execution of Gary Haugen for aggravated murder. The decision follows the tradition of Oregon appellate courts to do whatever they can to prevent the death penalty from being carried out.
Haugen, if you’ll remember, had refused further appeals in 2001 and demanded that he be executed. The governor granted him a reprieve and said no executions would take place as long as he’s in office. The court now has affirmed that this is within the governor’s power.
Kitzhaber says the death penalty is unjust. Presumably he thinks what he’s doing is more just. It’s worth remembering that Haugen has been in prison since 1981, when he was 19. In 2007 he was convicted of killing another inmate and sentenced to death. The court said the governor did not cancel the death sentence, just put it off till he leaves office, unless his successor grants another reprieve.
To me, the prospect of imprisonment for life is just as gruesome as the death penalty. And sentencing somebody to death and then putting it off for an indefinite period seems only to compound the cruelty. It seems to me that by indulging his own scruples, the governor is being more cruel than any executioner could possibly be. (hh)