Oregon death-row prisoner joins Gary Haugen in seeking execution

Death-row prisoner Jason Van Brumwell challenging Oregon to carry out the death penalty

January 08, 2014 SALEM -- A second death-row prisoner is challenging Oregon to carry out the death penalty, saying he agrees with co-defendant and fellow inmate Gary Haugen that the legal system is broken and pursuing appeals is pointless.

Jason Van Brumwell, who was sent to death row in 2007 with Haugen after the two were convicted of a prison killing, has written the Oregon Supreme Court that he wants to waive his appeals and is prepared to be executed, he said in a phone interview with The Oregonian.

“It’s about this whole (expletive) system we’ve got here,” Brumwell said, adding that he watched Haugen’s legal battles with his own attorneys. “I told myself if it ever got to this point where everything breaks down,” that he would withdraw and allow his death sentence to be carried out. “I owe it to myself to be true to myself.”

The development could hand Gov. John Kitzhaber his second death-row dilemma in his current term. Haugen in 2011 waived his appeals and was to be executed in December of that year. But two weeks before the planned execution date, Kitzhaber, who has said he is morally opposed to capital punishment, issued a reprieve for Haugen. He also said he would not allow executions to proceed while he is governor.

The move triggered both praise and criticism for the governor, who allowed two executions to proceed in his first term. Haugen sued, arguing the governor was overstepping his authority. The Oregon Supreme Court sided with the governor, and Haugen is awaiting word whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case.

It was unclear whether the state high court has received Brumwell’s letter yet.
Brumwell, 38, publicly disclosed the letter at a court hearing Wednesday morning in Marion County Circuit Court.

He said he is frustrated that the lawyer with whom he had worked most closely, Michael Curtis of Portland, was abruptly dropped from his legal team without his consent. Brumwell said he is concerned that Oregon Public Defense Services removed Curtis from his team after Brumwell spent a year and a half with him. Curtis declined to comment about his removal.

Paul Levy, Public Defense Services general counsel, also declined to elaborate but said the conflict is specific to Brumwell’s case, and that Curtis continues to handle other public defense cases.
Although Brumwell has said he is withdrawing his appeals, he must formally do so in court. Meanwhile, his suit challenging his conviction is continuing. The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11.
Brumwell and Haugen were convicted in the 2003 killing of David Polin, another inmate, who was found dead from 84 stab wounds and a crushed skull. Brumwell has been at the Oregon State Penitentiary since 1996, after he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the aggravated murder of Frances Wall, a Dari-Mart employee.

The Oregon Supreme Court already affirmed his conviction and death sentence in its direct review of his case in 2011. And like Haugen, Brumwell said in the phone interview that he does not want to die but believes the legal system is rigged and that he won’t get a fair appeal.

He also questioned whether his legal team, without Curtis, could be ready for an October trial date.
“Of course I want to live,” he said, but he added, “When I look at outcomes, if I see that I cannot at least have a fighting chance to win, I will give up at the table.”

He offered many of the same arguments that his friend and fellow inmate Haugen has articulated, saying that not only is the legal system broken but it is expensive and wasteful.

He said he knows Kitzhaber may well issue a reprieve in his case, saying he will fight it just as Haugen has.

It remains to be seen whether Brumwell’s case would increase pressure on Kitzhaber or the Legislature to take additional action with regard to the death penalty. Since Kitzhaber’s announcement, legislators have introduced one bill seeking to ask voters to abolish capital punishment.

But the bill, whose chief sponsor was Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, died in the House Judiciary Committee last year.
-- Helen Jung

© 2014 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.



Follow Us on Twitter


Follow Us on Google+


Watch OADP's Videos