Death Penalty Moratorium Declared by Oregon Governor

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Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announcing a death penalty moratorium at a press conference
Source: Don Ryan, AP, Nov. 22, 2011

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced Tuesday that executions will no longer take place while he serves as governor. Expressing regret for allowing the execution of two inmates in 1996 and 1997, Kitzhaber issued a reprieve to murderer Gary Haugen who was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Dec. 6, 2011.

“I simply cannot participate once again in something that I believe to be morally wrong,” Kitzhabersaid during a news conference on Nov. 22, 2011. Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984. Oregon’s death row currently houses 37 inmates.

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said in response to the announced moratorium, “It is arrogant and presumptuous for an elected official, up to and including the governor, to say, ‘I don’t care with the voters say, I don’t care what the courts say.’”

According to a Dec. 15, 2009 study published in American Law and Economics Association, death penalty cases cost $100,000 to $1.7 million more than life in prison without parole cases. “The reality is that, in Oregon, our death sentence is essentially an extremely expensive life prison term,” Kitzhaber said. “Far more expensive than the terms of others who are sentenced to life in prison without parole, rather than to death row.”

Like the only two men executed in Oregon since 1984, Haugen’s execution was scheduled after he waived his rights to appeal in protest of what he characterized as an unfair criminal justice system. Steve Gorham, one of Haugen’s lawyers, stated the following when asked about his client’s response to his reprieve, “I’m sure he’s not very happy right now. He was committed to exercising what he thought were his rights.”

Kitzahber’s term ends in Jan. 2015 and has not announced if he will run for re-election. The death penalty remains legal in 34 states.

Sources:

Jonathan J. Cooper, “Ore. Governor Bans Death Penalty for Rest of Term,” news.yahoo.com, Nov. 23, 2011

William Yardley, “Oregon Governor Says He Will Block Executions,” www.newyorktimes.com, Nov. 22, 2011