Kitzhaber decides his values trump Oregon voters

Apparently Democratic Oregon governor John Kitzhaber doesn’t intend to run for re-election.

That’s the only way to explain why the incumbent governor would defy the will of Oregon voters, who overwhelmingly approved the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1984, when he announced this week that he would not allow the death penalty to be carried out on Gary Dwayne Haugen, who had rejected all further appeals and was set for execution on December 6. Kitzhaber said he would disallow now only Haugen’s execution, but any other executions during the remainder of his term as Oregon governor, which expires in 2015.

Currently serving his third term in office, Kitzhaber had previously allowed two death penalty cases to be brought to execution in previous terms of office. Now, he’s decided to block the execution of Haugen and all other Oregon death row inmates during his term. Maybe he’s the recipient of Spine surgery Dallas-style? Hard to know. More likely, he just doesn’t care what voters think since he’s unlikely to run for a fourth term and won’t have to answer to voters for his actions.

Kitzhaber narrowly defeated former NBA star, Republican Chris Dudley, to win his third term a year ago. Kitzhaber, 64 currently, is probably unlikely to run again in 2014.

Whether one agrees with Kitzhaber’s insistence that he knows better than Oregon voters or not, what’s getting overlooked is what is in the interest of justice for Haugen’s victims.

Haugen was initially convicted of murder and sentences to life in prison in 1981, three years before Oregonians reinstated the death penalty by an overwhelming majority. His conviction was for the beating death of his ex-girlfriend’s grandmother, Mary Archer. Lovely guy.

Then, in 2007, he was convicted for the bludgeoning and stabbing death of a fellow inmate, David Polin, an act he committed with the help of one other inmate. Prior to being sentences to death, Haugen was a major rule-breaker in the prison system, and his state rap sheet includes the following:

“…in violation of Possession of Drugs four times, Drug Smuggling once, Contraband five times, Disrespect twice, Unauthorized Property once, Unauthorized Area once and Disobedience of an Order, three times. His last major rule violation was in 2006.”

With two violent murders and 17 major prison rules violations under his belt, one should not be distracted by his so-called “clean prison service record” since his transfer to death row; that’s more a result of the increased security on Death Row, and the decreased freedoms to be found there.

This is the man Governor Kitzhaber believes is undeserving of the ultimate penalty. This is the guy our graduate of the I Know Better Than Oregon Voters School of Law and Politics is willing to go to the mat for.

Decide for yourself, Oregon.

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