SALEM, Ore. – A death-row inmate who says he wants to die can reject a reprieve from the death penalty issued by Oregon's governor, a lower-court judge ruled Friday.
Senior Circuit Judge Timothy Alexander said convicted killer Gary Haugen is not required to accept clemency from Gov. John Kitzhaber. Last year, Haugen said he would voluntarily waive legal appeals that could delay his execution for years and fought to speed his punishment in protest of a criminal justice system that he says is broken.
But Kitzhaber, who opposes capital punishment, said no executions would occur while he is governor. Weeks before Haugen was scheduled to die by lethal injection, Kitzhaber issued an order preventing the execution for the rest of his time in office and said he hoped voters would decide to repeal the death penalty.
Kitzhaber spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki says the governor will likely appeal and is confident that his authority will ultimately be upheld.
In his ruling, the judge said he agrees with many of Kitzhaber's concerns about the death penalty but that precedents from higher courts support Haugen's right to reject the governor's clemency.
Haugen was serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of his former girlfriend's mother when he was sentenced to death for the 2003 killing of a fellow inmate.
Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, and the state has executed two people since then. Both occurred while Kitzhaber served as governor between 1995 and 2003. Both inmates had volunteered for execution, waiving their appeals.
After Kitzhaber was again elected in 2010, he announced he wouldn't allow any more executions while he was in office, saying he was haunted by the previous two. The governor has said he has no sympathy for Haugen but opposes capital punishment and believes Oregon's death penalty laws are "compromised and inequitable."