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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
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Death Row Inmate|Demands Execution

SALEM, Ore. (CN) - A death row inmate sued Gov. John Kitzhaber in state court, demanding to be put to death.

Kitzhaber "announced that he would refuse to permit any further executions to occur while he served as governor," Gary D. Haugen says in his complaint in Marion County Court.

Kitzhaber issued a "temporary reprieve of plaintiff's death sentence" in November and then imposed the moratorium.

Haugen, 50, seeks judicial intervention, calling his reprieve "invalid and ineffective" because he refuses to accept it. He claims that state law requires that the person receiving a reprieve accept it.

"Plaintiff has rejected the reprieve and therefore it is legally ineffective to halt the execution of this sentence," the complaint states.

Haugen also claims that the reprieve is "beyond the governor's constitutional authority" because it does not last for a definite time.

He also questions the governor's reasons for issuing the reprieve. Rather than suspending the death penalty because it is inhumane, Kitzhaber suspended it "because of defendant's moral opposition," Haugen says.

He claims that the Oregon Constitution "does not confer upon him [Kitzhaber] the power to suspend the operation of any Oregon law for the reason that he is opposed to it."

Haugen claims that a governor may grant clemency, but it must be because it has been determined that the prisoner deserves mercy, which may come in the form of a pardon, a reduction in sentence or a reprieve based on the inhumanity or injustice of proceeding with the death penalty.

Kitzhaber has called the death penalty ineffective and "morally wrong," and said he does not wish to "participate" in it.

Haugen quotes the governor as saying, "Oregon's application of the death penalty is not fairly and consistently applied. [I do] not believe that state-sponsored executions bring justice."

A death warrant hearing in September 2011 found Haugen competent to be executed. He accepted the finding and chose not to challenge it. He was scheduled to be executed on Dec. 6, 2011.

Haugen asked the court to determine that the governor's reprieve is unconstitutional, and that the court "would become legally obligated to conduct a death warrant hearing" and "to issue a death warrant directing the plaintiff's sentence to be carried out."

The complaint does not mention the nature of Haugen's crime, but Oregon media refer to him as a "two-time killer."

The case resembles the famous case of Gary Gilmore, who demanded to be executed in Utah in 1977, and got his wish.

Haugen is represented by Harrison Latto of Portland.

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