More governors need to take the courageous step that Governor John Kitzhaber took this week. Telling Oregonians he's still haunted by the two executions he approved during his earlier terms as governor, he declared an end to capital punishment for the duration of his term on Wednesday.
Via Common Dreams:
Calling Oregon's death penalty scheme "compromised and inequitable," the Democratic governor said Tuesday he'll issue a reprieve to a twice-convicted murderer who was scheduled to die by lethal injection in two weeks. He said he'd do the same for any other condemned inmates facing execution during his tenure in office.
"I simply cannot participate once again in something that I believe to be morally wrong," the governor said in uncharacteristically emotional remarks during a news conference in his office.
"It is time for this state to consider a different approach," he said.
It's time for all states to consider a different approach, not just Oregon. This was not an easy choice for Kitzhaber, but he made it with a conscience apparent.
Oregon has executed two men since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, one each in 1996 and 1997. Both inmates, like Haugen, had voluntarily given up their appeals. Kitzhaber declined to intervene in their cases, however, citing his oath to uphold the constitution.
But the governor now says he's long regretted his decision to allow those executions, and he's come to believe that Oregon voters did not intend to create a death penalty scheme in which the only inmates who are put to death are those who volunteer.
"The reality is that, in Oregon, our death sentence is essentially an extremely expensive life prison term," Kitzhaber said. "Far more expensive than the terms of others who are sentenced to life in prison without parole, rather than to death row."
Kitzhaber fought tears as he said he spoke to relatives of Haugen's victims, saying they were difficult discussions and his "heart goes out to them." He declined to discuss them further, calling them "private conversations."