Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Killer asks to overturn governor's act of clemency

Last November, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's indefinitely postponed all death sentences.  He imposed a de facto moratorium on the death sentence. Kitzhaber, who is personally opposed to capital punishment, announced he would allow no executions while he's governor, saying Oregon's death penalty system is costly and flawed, reported the Oregonian.

In a strange twist a condemned killer is trying to overturn the governor's act of clemency.  Gary Haugen, a condemned murder has asked a county court to issue a new death warrant.  He said he does not accept the governor's reprieve.  He  may have found a courtroom ally in his unprecedented quest to override Governor ex parte act of  reprieve.
In still a stranger twist the DA who put Haugen on death row is siding with the convicted killer. Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau said Monday that the two-time killer has a viable argument. "That's the legal issue that needs to be explored in a court of law," Beglau told the Oregonian. "That really is the central issue."

The Oregon Justice Department has requested that a Marion County circuit judge recognize Kitzhaber as a legal party to Haugen's criminal case so it can defend the reprieve, noting that "it appears that the district attorney intends to appear but not defend the Governor's actions."

The circumstances are unique: The governor would almost never have a role in a criminal case -- except in cases where he exercised his constitutional authority. Also, never before has an Oregon governor halted an execution against the wishes of the inmate to be executed, reported the Oregonian.

Similar circumstances across the country are tough to find. In Illinois, Gov. Jim Edgar in 1996 commuted the death sentence of Guinevere Garcia who had opposed clemency requests by anti-death penalty groups. But she didn't oppose the commutation to life in prison once the governor granted it, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The center collects information about the death penalty and has a board of directors with members opposed to capital punishment.

When Haugen first challenged the reprieve, legal experts, including at least one death penalty supporter, said they doubt a court would overturn the governor's reprieve, instead reaffirming his constitutional authority, reported the Oregonian.
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