The governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber made an announcement today that the execution of Gary Haugen will not happen next month as it was mentioned. Haugen has been found guilty of murder twice and he was supposed to die by lethal injection on December 6th. However, Governor Kitzhaber also announced that he will not have any executions in the state while he is in office.
The New York Times quotes him saying: "[Those executions] were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years. The governor’s announcement today was a bombshell, to say the least. The governor said that the current death penalty system in Oregon is broken. He also said that he wants next year’s legislative session to push through reforms on the death penalty statutes.
The governor has the power to commute, pardon, or reprieve criminals of their crimes. Kitzhaber said that he was issuing the reprieve for Haugen and then plans to leave it in place for the rest of his term. He said that while he could have commuted the sentences for everyone on death row in Oregon, he felt that it was up to the voters of the state to decide on how the system should be changed.
During Kitzhaber’s first term, there were two executions that he allowed to happen. At his press conference today, he said that he regrets allowing them. Kitzhaber said that he has several reasons for his decision, specifically naming his own convictions against the death penalty and the fact that capital punishment is “unworkable and expensive.”
Haugen, though, is not likely to be pleased with the governor’s decision. He has waived all of his appeals and said that he wants to be put to death. One of Haugen’s attorneys, Steve Gorham, said that his client will be disappointed with the governor’s decision.
It remains to be seen what will happen now. Oregonians have abolished and reinstated the death penalty several times since it was first enacted in 1864, and Kitzhaber said he did not know if people will support repealing capital punishment.