Sunday, June 23, 2013

Governor can deny execution for killer who wants to die

Oregon’s governor can deny execution for a death row inmate who wants to die, the state’s Supreme Court ruled, reported The Associated Press.

The ruling settles an argument between Gov. John Kitzhaber and Gary Haugen, who was convicted of two murders, over whether Kitzhaber had the power to grant a reprieve that Haugen did not want.

Kitzhaber, a Democrat, opposes the death penalty and intervened weeks before Haugen was scheduled to be die by lethal injection in 2011. The governor vowed to block any execution during his term in office and urged a statewide vote on abolishing the death penalty.

The Legislature has shown little interest in putting it on the ballot in 2014. Kitzhaber renewed his request after the ruling, saying capital punishment “has devolved into an unworkable system that fails to meet the basic standards of justice.”

The court said there’s nothing in the Oregon constitution giving an inmate a right to reject clemency, and Kitzhaber was within his authority.

"The executive power to grant clemency flows from the constitution and is one of the governor’s only checks on another branch of government,” Chief Justice Thomas Balmer wrote.

The reprieve expires when Kitzhaber leaves office. His term ends in January 2015, and he hasn’t said whether he’ll run for another four-year term.

Oregon has executed two inmates since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984. Both, like Haugen, waived their appeals in the late 1990s. Kitzhaber, who was governor then, declined to intervene — a decision he now regrets.

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