Thou shall not kill: Governor of Oregon halts all state executions

 

Los Angeles

The Governor of Oregon has handed a high-profile victory to opponents of the death penalty in the United States, announcing a moratorium on executions during the remainder of his time in office because he is unwilling to "participate in something I believe to be morally wrong".

John Kitzhaber issued a temporary reprieve to Gary Haugen, a convicted murderer due to be killed on 6 December, saying capital punishment is "a perversion of justice" and "neither fair nor just". The move makes Oregon the latest of five American states to abandon the death penalty, at least temporarily, in recent years. New York ruled it unconstitutional in 2004, New Jersey repealed it in 2007, New Mexico followed in 2009 and Illinois abolished the practice in March.

Mr Kitzhaber announced his move at an emotional press conference on Tuesday, saying he is haunted by regret for allowing two men to be put to death on his watch more than a decade ago and is unwilling to take the "agonising and difficult" decision to sign any more warrants.

"I do not believe that those executions made us safer and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society," he told reporters. "The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just; and it is not swift or certain. It is not applied equally to all."

Those angered by Mr Kitzhaber's decision included Haugen, 49, who was eager to be executed, and the families of the two people he brutally murdered 22 years ago.

"We are just plain devastated," said Ard Pratt, the ex-husband of Haugen's victim, Mary Archer.

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