Salem Statesman Journal: Haugen verdict refocuses effort

Gary Haugen appears in Marion County Circuit Court to pursue his request to reinstate his death sentence despite a reprieve from Gov. John Kitzhaber

Jun. 23 2013
Now that the Oregon Supreme Court upheld his reprieve of Gary Haugen’s death sentence, Gov. John Kitzhaber and others say they can proceed with a broader but politically difficult effort to abolish Oregon’s death penalty.

Kitzhaber’s statement after the court’s decision Thursday focused largely on an alternative to the death penalty, not on Haugen’s unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn a reprieve he issued two weeks before Haugen was scheduled to die in 2011.He also vowed then there would be no executions while he was governor, although the reprieve applied only to Haugen.

“I renew my call for a re-evaluation of our current system that embraces capital punishment, which has devolved into an unworkable system that fails to meet the basic standards of justice,” Kitzhaber said.

“I am still convinced that we can find a better solution that holds offenders accountable and keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values.”
Haugen, 51, is a twice-convicted murderer who will remain on death row at the Oregon State Penitentiary while Kitzhaber is governor. Chief Justice Thomas Balmer, writing for a unanimous court, said the reprieve was “valid and effective.”

Harrison Latto, a Portland lawyer who represented Haugen, said he met with Haugen Thursday afternoon — after Haugen learned of the decision — and informed Haugen that further options were “narrow.”

According to the Oregon Department of Corrections website, there are 36 men and one woman on death row. Two other men waived their appeals and were executed during Kitzhaber’s first term as governor in 1996 and 1997, when Kitzhaber chose not to intervene. Oregon’s last involuntary execution occurred in 1962.

But a proposed ballot measure to repeal Oregon’s death penalty, backed by Kitzhaber, failed to advance past a House Judiciary Committee hearing Feb. 26 and is finished for the 2013 session.
That constitutional amendment would have gone to voters in November 2014. A public opinion survey conducted last fall for Oregon Public Broadcasting and KPTV 12 suggests it would have faced tough sledding.

Peter Wong Statesman Journal



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