Execution ban attacked – from Death Row
Double murderer due to die next month brands Governor a coward for halting the killings
A Death Row inmate in Oregon has called the Governor of the state, John Kitzhaber, a "coward" for announcing a moratorium on all executions for the remainder of his term.
Gary Haugen, a double murderer, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on 6 December. That date with the executioner was abruptly put off, however, when Governor Kitzhaber, a Democrat, closed the death chamber saying the capital punishment system was "compromised and inequitable".
The Governor's move re-energised the legal duelling nationally between defenders of the death penalty and those who oppose it. Polls show growing support for punishments other than death for some categories of prisoner, including murderers, while an increasing number of states that have the death penalty are moving to reconsider and possibly repeal it. Illinois banned it this year.
The complaints of Haugen, made to a local Oregon newspaper, highlight a slightly different legal quandary faced by some states: if a Death Row inmate drops all resistance to the sentence imposed on them, as Haugen had done, should their wish to be executed without further legal ado be respected?
While in public statements Haugen at first applauded the Governor's decision, by this weekend he had changed his mind. He said he found out that he had been handed a reprieve after being shown the Governor's statement.
"I feel like he's a paper cowboy," the prisoner declared. "He couldn't pull the trigger." Haugen said that after a few day's reflection he had concluded that the Governor had "basically pulled a coward's move" because he was acting on his own beliefs and not respecting the wishes of the voters who had supported the reinstatement the death penalty in the state in 1984.
One of the peculiarities of capital punishment in the US is the completely inconsistent manner in which it is implemented in the 36 states that have it on their books, even when it comes to the manner of execution. Oregon is set apart because it says only those who are willing to die will be executed.
Noting that the state therefore only kills those who volunteer, Governor Kitzhaber called its system a "perversion of justice". Banning all further executions and promising to ask the state legislature to begin considering reforms, the Governor urged "all Oregonians to engage in the long-overdue debate that this important issue deserves".
For his part, however, Haugen, who killed the mother of his former girlfriend in 1980 as well as a prison inmate eight years ago, is preparing to seek legal advice on whether the Governor is within his rights to stop executions. "I think there's got to be some constitutional violations. Man, this is definitely cruel and unusual punishment," he suggested. "You don't bring a guy to the table twice and then just stop it."
The notion that inmates should be allowed to hasten their own deaths by firing their lawyers and dropping all legal opposition is not supported by John Blume, of Cornell University who wrote a study of the issue called "Killing the Willing". Part of the problem is assessing whether the inmates in question might be mentally ill.
"Most of these people aren't dropping their appeals because they believe it's the punishment they deserve," he told the Los Angeles Times.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...
£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...