Death-row inmate Gary Haugen loses legal bid to force his own execution

Oregon death-row inmate Gary Haugen
January 21, 2014 Oregon death-row inmate Gary Haugen's legal quest to force his own execution ended Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider his case. Without comment, the court denied his petition for writ of certiorari. The court turns down the vast majority of requests it receives each year to review a case. The decision effectively guarantees that Haugen, twice-convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a jury in 2007, will continue to live on death row for the duration of Gov. John Kitzhaber's term in office. Haugen had waived his legal appeals in 2011 as a way of protesting the legal system, and demanded that the state carry out his death sentence. But two weeks before Haugen's planned execution date, Kitzhaber issued a reprieve and declared he would not allow any executions as long as he is governor. Kitzhaber criticized capital punishment as "morally wrong" and argued that Oregon's system "fails to meet basic standards of justice." Haugen sued Kitzhaber. The late Senior Judge Timothy Alexander in 2012 agreed with Haugen's arguments that the inmate had to accept Kitzhaber's reprieve in order for it to be effective. But on appeal, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned that decision, finding that the governor's action needed no such acceptance. Haugen's pro-bono lawyer, Harrison Latto, then sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court of the one federal claim raised in his argument. Latto had contended that the uncertainty of the timeline for carrying out Haugen's sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Kitzhaber did not issue an expiration date for the reprieve, Latto argued, and it is unclear when Kitzhaber's term might end. The argument did not sway the nation's highest court. The court's denial comes about six weeks after Kitzhaber announced that he is running for re-election this November. It also comes about two weeks after Haugen's co-defendant and fellow death-row inmate, Jason Brumwell, said he wants to waive his own legal appeals and similarly challenge the state to execute him. -- Helen Jung hjung@oregonian.comThe Oregonian



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